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Full text of "The silver caves,"

SILVER CAVES. 



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THE IMPASSABLE CHASM (Page 91). 
Silver Caves, Frontispiece. 



E SILVER CAVES 



A MINING STORY 

» 

BY 

ERNEST INGERSOLL 



NEW YORK 
DODD, MEAD & COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS 



Copyright, 

1890, 

By DODD, MEAD & COMPANY. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER 

I. THE "LAST CHANCE," . 

II. THE FURNISHING OF A NEW HOME, . 

III. A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION, . 

IV. MAX HAS AN IDEA, . . . . 
V. OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER, 

VI. PROGRESS IN MINING, 

VII. A DIME NOVEL HERO, 

VIII. HOW LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR, . 

IX. SANDY MCKINNOn's EAVESDROPPING, 

X. FACING THE NEW SITUATION, . 

XI. PREPARATIONS FOR WAR, 

XII. THE ENEMY APPEARS, 

XIII. A FLAG OF TRUCE, 

V 



vi CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER PAGE 

XIV. SOME DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE, . 15I 

XV. OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING, . . 167 

XVI. THE FIGHT AT THE FORD, . . . 177 

XVII. THE CAPITALIST EXAMINES THE MINE, I93 

XVIII. SUCCESS ACHIEVED, 209 



THE "LAST CHANCE." 



THE SILVER CAVES. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE LAST CHANCE." 

Matters had come to a crisis with Len and 
Max, when Sandy McKinnon arrived at the 
camp, with a letter of introduction from a 
friend in Denver. 

These two young men had not been at all 
fortunate, so far, and, like the rest of the 
community, were sorely discouraged. They 
had wavered for some days between desert- 
ing the place and another alternative, the 
nature of which they kept to themselves, for 
they knew that they might not only be 
laughed at, but perhaps prevented from carry- 
ing out their plan, were it announced. 

The camp I refer to is now a flourishing 

3 



4 



THE LAST CHANCE. 



town, the center of many small side-villages 
on the northern slope of Sierra San Juan ; 
but twenty-five years ago, when my story 
occurred, it was at the point of collapse, and 
perhaps would never have recovered had not 
what I am about to relate occurred; and you 
must bear with me while I explain the cir- 
cumstances that led up to its revival. 

The beginnings of the town had been made 
half a dozen miles higher up Panther Creek, 
almost at its source, in fact ; but after digging 
numberless prospect-holes and driving three 
fairly long tunnels, everybody voted that 
locality a failure, and came down to the pres- 
ent town-site where paying mines had since 
been worked for two or three years. 

The two young men had become the own- 
ers, some time before, of one of these early 
tunnels (that one nearest the source of the 
Creek), through taking it as payment of a 
joint debt because nothing better was to be 
had. It was called the Last Cha7ice, and the 
boys accepted the name as significant, and 



THE LAST CHANCE, 



5 



proposed to risk what means they had left in 
giving the mine a new trial. 

About 200 feet down stream was a second 
tunnel, the Aurora, owned by two men who 
were friendly to our heroes, one of whom, 
named Bowen, was famous for his reckless 
yet good-natured exploits of bravado. 

Some distance still farther down the canon, 
on the same side (the right-hand wall of the 
narrow gulch, looking down stream), was the 
third old tunnel, the Cardinal, This last was 
the property of a thorough scallawag, de- 
spised and avoided by all respectable citizens, 
and only kept from being a positive criminal 
by his natural cowardice. The enmity of 
this man, whose real name was lost in the 
nick-names Old Bob " and Squint-eye," 
had been incurred by the boys through 
their exposing a fraud by which he had once 
proposed to sell to a stranger named Ander- 
son, as a productive mine, this very property 
— the Last Chance — although he neither 
owned it nor believed it worth anything. 



6 



THE LAST CHANCE. 



It was not strange, therefore, that, while 
trying to avoid general curiosity, they were 
especially anxious to keep their intentions 
secret from Old Bob. 

And just at this juncture came Mr. Alex- 
ander McKinnon, straight from Glasgow, and 
hoping to do something at the camp which 
might teach him how silver mining should 
be carried on, and perhaps open a way to 
make his fortune. Placing all the chances of 
failure, and their poverty, fairly before him, 
they offered to let him into their new 
partnership, to be called Brehm, Bushwick & 
Co., on very liberal terms, and he accepted. 

So they fitted him out with the kind of 
clothing, tools, and general outfit which were 
needful, purchased enough provisions to last 
a fortnight, after which they could come to 
town for more, and to-morrow the three were 
to start bright and early to their new home 
and the Last Chance. 

. When the rising sun of the next morning 
had begun to tinge the snow-peaks with 



THE LAST CHANCE. 



7 



rose-color, but hours before his beams could 
scale the mountain wall of this deep valley 
and flood it with warmth and light, our 
hopeful adventurers were awake and busy 
with breakfast. 

Sandy showed himself a much more skill- 
ful cook than either of his American friends, 
and was warmly applauded. 

There's a difference between fend and 
fare weell," he remarked, sententiously, when 
they told him of some of their troubles in 
this matter; by which I mean," he added, 
as he saw their puzzled faces, that shifting 
for a meal is bad policy beside knowing 
how to have plenty of good food and 
how to prepare it. It's poor economy, I'm 
thinkin', to half-starve one's self. * Lang 
fasting hains ' — that's saves, ye ken — ' nae 
bread.'" 

McKinnon dropped more and more into 
broad Scotch as he became better acquainted, 
and his fund of old saws, into each of which 
whole chapters of worldly experience had 



8 



THE LAST CHANCE. 



been boiled down, were a constant source 
of enjoyment to his partners. 

Breakfast out of the way in a hurry, the 
three burros (Mexican donkeys) hired to 
carry their luggage were brought around, 
the little sawbuck saddles placed upon their 
backs, and cinched to them with a tightness 
that made them groan and grunt lustily ; 
then the load of each was placed between 
the forks, or hung to the four horns of the 
saddle, surmounted by the long-handled 
tools, and securely lashed on by ropes and 
thonofs of twisted rawhide, which never 
break or stretch, and rarely get loose from 
the "squaw-hitch." 

The whole bao^craore made about six fair 
burro-loads, and these were to be carried in 
two trips. It was not necessary for them to 
burden themselves with a great amount of 
furniture or provisions, since the former could 
be left locked up in town, and the provisions 
could be replenished when they ran short. 
Besides, the lads expected to catch an 



THE LAST CHANCE, 



9 



abundance of trout and perhaps shoot an 
occasional deer or mountain sheep, an ex- 
pectation in which they would not have 
been disappointed had the extraordinary 
affair which happened later left time for 
hunting and fishing. 

The trail was a steep and little-used path- 
way up the mountain, through dense woods, 
where it straggled about to avoid rocks and 
fallen logs. It was built up, shelf-fashion, 
around projecting knobs, crossed fierce tor- 
rents upon narrow bridges, and was full of 
sharp turns, miry holes, and bad going of 
every description. Here and there an open- 
ing in the forest gave a magnificent view, far 
out over the foot-hills, for the elevation, 
toward the head of the creek, was more than 
four thousand feet above the valleys and 
fully ten thousand feet above the sea. 

Beyond the woods the party found itself 
on the brink of a deep gorge, at the bottom 
of which Panther Creek tore down in a 
series of cascades. The torrent ran four or 



lO 



THE LAST CHANCE. 



five hundred feet below, and above them the 
mountains rose to invisible heights. Along 
this cliff-face the narrow trail had been 
carried irregularly and often very danger- 
ously, but the hardy little beasts picked their 
way cautiously up and down, and never sank 
too deep in a bog or got too far over the 
edge of a precipice. 

Finally the trail reached the edge of the 
creek, near its head, and here was a ford, 
beyond which it led through the willows and 
over the Aurora's dump to the Last Chance, 
whose cabin, perched on a bench, or terrace, 
was gained by a stiff climb up a zigzag in 
the face of the rocky bluff. 

The burros were turned loose in a small 
meadow above the cabin, and after a hearty 
supper the tired boys quickly made beds of 
boughs and blankets, and slept as their long 
tramp entitled them to do. 



FURNISHING A NEW HOME. 



XX 



CHAPTER II. 



THE FURNISHING OF A NEW HOME. 

It was understood, without discussion, that 
Max should take the superintendence of all 
mining operations, that Len should be the 
buyer and business man of the firm generally, 
and that Sandy should look after the house- 
keeping. Of course, they would all work 
together, but these were the specialties of 
each partner. 

" Now who is to go back after the rest of 
our possessions," demanded Lennox, as they 
gathered at breakfast on the morning follow- 
ing their arrival. " I don't reckon there's any 
use of two going." 

"No— I'd as lief do it," Max remarked. 
" I can re-cinch and manage the jacks rather 
better than the rest of you, I imagine." 

"You certainly have my permission," re- 
marked Lennox, with a smile. 

13 



14 



FURNISHING A NEW HOME. 



''An' I'm no hinderin' ye, as the brig said 
to the burn," Sandy echoed. The young 
man frae Virginia can stay an' help me get 
the hoose in trim." 

So the donkeys were brought up and 
saddled, Max marched away, and the other 
lads turned to their house-cleaning. 

The former owners of the property had 
built a pretty good log cabin at the 
head of the dump, close to the mouth of the 
tunnel, the door and front window of which 
faced down the gulch and straight at the 
Aurora's dump. There was a rude fireplace 
in which had been left a dilapidated cooking 
stove. The first task was the straightening 
up of this, and putting it into condition for 
use, which Len soon accomplished. 

At the farther end of the cabin a series of 
bunks had been built out of poles. These 
were now broken and unwholesome, so they 
were pulled to pieces, the loose bark and 
other dirt cleared away from the logs and 
floor behind them, and new ones were put up, 



FURNISHING A NEW HOME. 15 



a layer of slender, elastic poles making an 
excellent bed-bottom in each bunk, and spruce 
boughs luxurious mattresses upon which to 
spread the buffalo robes and blankets. 

This and some other tidying had taken all 
day, but when Max came in about sundown, 
the kettle was singing and dancing on the 
old stove, that leaked fire-light, if not fire, 
from a dozen cracks, and all three were well 
satisfied with themselves and their snug 
home ; while the boy, who came with Max to 
drive the donkeys back, was loud in his 
praises, and went away convinced that no 
body on the Creek could make flapjacks equal 
to Sandy McKinnon. 

That evening, as they sat in the doorway, 
wedging handles into the picks and preparing 
the little mine lamps. Max suddenly exclaimed: 

" Oh, I forgot to tell you ! While I was 
packing the last burro. Squint-eyed Bob 
came moseying around and wanted to know 
what I was up to and where I was going, and 
so on — evidently prying 'round for informa- 



1 6 FURNISHING A NEW HOME. 



tion. I gave him short answers, but he 
wasn't satisfied, and finally boned me out- 
right to know if we weren't going up to Jim 
Bowen's mine on Panther Creek. That 
roused my dander. ' Hang it, Bob,' I retorted, 
* what business is it of yours, where I'm 
going, or what I am doing? May be I'm 
going up Panther Creek and may be I'm not 
— I don't see what odds it makes to you ! ' 
He saw I was mad and backed off, but he 
blurted out one thing before he left, that I 
don't quite savvy." 
" What was that ? " 

** I can't give his words exactly, but it was 
to the effect that * in this country, when a 
man jumped another man's claim he was dog- 
on likely to hear from it pretty soon, and 
that what was left of him wasn't worth any 
funeral expenses.' Then he yelled something 
about * fixing me,' and went off. Now what 
can he do ? " 

" Oh, nothing at all," said Len. " Its all 
bluster. He was trying to bluff you." 



FURNISHING A NEW HOME. 



17 



That may be, but he means to make 
mischief if he can, and we must look out 
for him. However, I fancy we're safe till 
morning, and I'm going to sleep. Good- 
night." 

As for Jim Bowen," Len answered, " he 
told me himself, when he was here last, that 
if I ever wanted to do anything in or about 
the Aurora, I was welcome to do what I 
could, for he never should try to develop it " 



A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION. 



19 



CHAPTER III. 



A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION. 

It was with eager interest that the young 
partners shouldered their picks, lighted their 
lamps, and prepared to begin work on the 
second day after their arrival. And yet it 
was with noiittle trepidation — at any rate in 
the minds of the two leaders in the enter- 
prise ; for Max and Len well knew that they 
were relying wholly upon a theory, and were 
going against not only the experience of the 
early prospectors and miners here, but against 
the judgment of the whole population of the 
district, among which were many miners of 
practical knowledge. As for Sandy — a stran- 
ger to these facts — he was simply full of the 
buoyancy which hope and novelty lends to 
every new movement in the line of one's am- 
bition. 

21 



22 A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION. 



" If there is anything more inspiriting than 
mining for the precious metals, the world has 
not yet found it. It is the secret charm of 
how many a fairy tale! By it how many a 
fable can be practically interpreted ! Just be- 
fore you, perhaps right under the first clod, or 
hidden in the dark recesses of this very crev- 
ice out of which springs the service-bush 
whose sugary berries you are pausing to 
taste, lies waiting the all-powerful gold. 

But just here halt with me a moment, while 
I sketch the position and outward appearance 
of this mine. The entrance of the tunnel had 
been made in a pretty nearly vertical face of 
rock, at the edge of the little bench or terrace 
upon which the cabin stood, and the rock 
which had been excavated had been brought 
out by cars running upon a rude wooden 
tramway, and pitched down into the valley, 
forming an elongated heap of stone, like the 
beginning of a railway embankment. This 
was called the dump." The track still re- 
mained along the level top of the dump, and 



A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION. 23 



one of the small cars, somewhat out of repair, 
lay overturned beside it, its load, apparently 
the last brought out of the mine, still half 
filling its box. 

How deep and large the tunnel or drift 
might be, the boys could judge only by the 
size of the dump, for a heavy door prevented 
entrance. From under the door trickled a 
stream of clear cold water, which had already 
proved a great convenience. The Aurora 
mine, a hundred yards below, was almost pre- 
cisely similar in outward appearance — even 
to the rivulet, but it had no door. 

Breakfast dispatched and overalls donned, 
their picks sharpened, their lamps trimmed 
and burning," the firm marched up to the por- 
tal in single file. Max at the head. 

" Open, sesame ! " shouted the leader. 

''Allee samee open," echoed Len, in the 
best Chinese he knew. 

" Kai duxon parasitidos gignotai," muttered 
McKinnon in broad Gaelic Greek. 

But his talisman was no more effective 



24 A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION. 



than that of the others, and the dopr stood 
firm. 

Max struck an attitude resembling Thor 
with his hammer, and made ready to deal the 
barricade a splintering blow. 

He that would eat the kernel maun crack 
the nut," pronounced Sandy, in as solemn a 
tone of voice as though he were giving a 
death-warrant. 

Hold on ! " exclaimed Len, seizing his 
partner s uplifted arm. Don't smash it. I 
reckon we can get in more peaceably. Let's 
try to pry off the lock." 

Very well," assented Max ; " here goes ! " 
Inserting his pick-point carefully into the 
staple clasping the padlock, by which the 
door seemed to be secured, two or three forci- 
ble wrenches pulled it out, and the released 
latch fell easily out of place. 

It only remained to swing open the door 
and face the burst of icily damp air that 
rushed out, as though delighted to be set free 
and allowed to mingle with the sunshine. 



FORCING THE BARRICADE. 
Silver Caves, Page 24. 



A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION. 



25 



You will remember that a steady stream of 
water was described as pouring out from be- 
neath this door, and coursing down the side 
of the dump in a channel which showed it had 
long been followed. The water was cold and 
pure, and had proved a great convenience to 
the boys in the cabin, who otherwise must 
have made a tedious descent to the creek-bed 
for all they wanted to use. 

Upon opening the door it was seen that this 
stream spread itself over nearly the whole 
width of the tunnel, which was badly made 
and far from orderly. 

The trio were not afraid of mud and water, 
however, so they pushed their way in, stumbl- 
ing along over fallen fragments, and in and 
out of the puddles, feeling that it would take 
a longer time to clear the path of these obsta- 
cles than they could well afford. They had 
not gone more than thirty or forty paces, 
however, when the tunnel became choked 
with prostrate and moldy timbers and great 
heaps of fallen rock, which they could with 



26 A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION. 



difficulty crawl over. No sooner had this 
first obstruction been passed than a second 
similar one was encountered, and they began 
to feel that it was perilous work to proceed 
under a tunnel roof so insecure as this one 
appeared to be. 

I wonder how much deeper this thing is," 
said Max, after a third great barricade had 
been surmounted. " What did our dear old 
friend, the late lamented proprietor, tell you 
under that head, Lennox?" 

Said it was i8o feet long." 

But he didn't mention that it was only six 
inches wide ! " Max retorted, coming to a 
halt at the same time. 

*'We may as well go on a bit farther," 
Sandy advised. "A Scotchman doesna like 
to gie it up till he ha' seen the end of a 
thing. 'A'maist and very near,' I've heard, 
* hae aye been great liars.' " 

All right, we'll explore it as long as we 
can scramble," Max rejoined cheerfully, and 
the three pushed on, enduring many a bump 



A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION. 27 



and scratch on hands and toes, knees and 
elbows, in spite of their lamp light. 

Before long, however, progress was com- 
pletely blocked. A great mass of the roof 
had fallen where a crevice opened upward 
and sideways, and out of this crevice gushed 
a steady stream of water to swell that which ^ 
trickled from lesser fountains elsewhere, and 
drained out along the bottom of the tunnel. 

" Thus far and no farther. Satisfied, 
Sandy?" 

" Oo, aye. ' Down wi' the lid,' quo' Willie 
Reid." 

They were turning back when Max asked 
them to wait a minute, and taking out a 
pocket-compass, he noted as well as he w^as 
able the direction the excavation pointed at 
that inner end. 

I suspect," he explained, that as it 
deepens this tunnel bends a trifle to the 
left — down the creek — on a slight curve fol- 
lowing the vein. If so I want to know it." 

Making their way out, he took another 



28 A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION. 



compass observation near the entrance and 
found he was right, though the bend was a 
slight one. 

Before leaving the inner end, the two 
Americans had selected several specimens of 
the vein-rock from the sides and roof of the 
tunnel, and other pieces were gathered as 
they returned. When daylight was reached 
they spread these specimens out and talked 
them over, explaining to Sandy, who turned 
out rather wiser in respect to minerals than 
he had claimed to be, what Avere the promi- 
nent characteristics of each kind of rock re- 
presented. 

A few of the fragments, showing some 
peculiar brown nodules and threads, they 
separated from the rest, and compared them 
with similar pieces taken from the over- 
turned car-load on the dump, which had ex- 
cited their attention before. None of the 
rock at the entrance had shown this charac- 
teristic ; all pieces of that kind, they dis- 
covered, had come from the innermost depth. 



A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION. 29 



If we could get past that barrier I think 
we should find much more of it," Max re- 
marked. 

" We know well enough as to that," Len 
replied, for certainly that car-load was about 
the last one brought from the mine, and must 
show what the breast is made of." 

"What do you mean by the breast?" 
Sandy inquired. 

The rock across the end of the tunnel 
into which the digging is carried forward." 

''Well," Max resumed, '' the gangue there, 
judging by the car-load of specimens, contains 
more of this brown stuff than anything we 
saw as far as we went, so I think it is fair 
to conclude that it increases steadily in that 
direction, and that if the tunnel were pushed 
farther the whole vein would be seen, before 
very long, to be well impregnated with it, 
taking the place of this useless copper and 
quartz." 

" Can we not examine the outcrop ?" Sandy 
asked, ''and learn something from that?" 



30 A DISCOURAGING EXPIORATION, 



The outcrop of a vein is that part of it 
which appears above the surface of the soil, 
or enclosing rocks, — crops out, as geologists 
say. 

I don't know ; perhaps so. It would do 
no harm to and take a look at it." 



MAX HAS AN IDEA. 



31 



CHAPTER IV. 



MAX HAS AN IDEA. 

Nobody, of course, would ever deliberately 
have purchased a piece of mining- property 
about which he knew so little as these lads 
did about the Last Chance claim. But it 
must be remembered, that they did not buy 
after selection, but that the mine was forced 
quickly upon them, taken, like Hobson's 
choice of a horse in the stable which held but 
one animal, because there was no other pay 
to be got. Now it was their business to ex- 
plore the property thoroughly and see what 
could be made out of it. They knew that 
many a mine had been abandoned by one 
owner and yielded a fortune to his successor ; 
it was possible some good might have been 
overlooked in this one. No man," wrote 
the wise philosopher, Francis Bacon, ''pros- 
pers so suddenly as by other's errors." 

33 



34 



MAX HAS AN IDEA. 



At any rate, they proposed to find out all 
they could about the prospect-hole, and not 
run away without at least loudly knocking at 
fortune's door. A man can endure failure 
with much composure when he feels that it 
has been through no lack of diligence on his 
part, and if success follows, it is all the more 
satisfactory for having been earned by good 
judgment and hard work. 

Putting into their pockets some pieces oi 
cold bread and a handful apiece of dried fruit, 
for they did not know how far their search 
might lead them, they began to climb the 
steep rocks which formed the wall of the 
valley, and after a few moments worked their 
way up to where a less steeply inclined slope 
stretched onward to the summit of the range. 
Here, after some difficulty, they were able to 
discover the crest or outcrop of their vein, 
and to trace it two or three hundred yards by 
its occasional appearance at ledges and bare 
spots among the herbage and heather of short, 
thick, huckleberry-like bushes, which clothed 



MAX HAS AN IDEA. 



35 



the mountain-side. At the farther border 
of this plateau, a huge land-slide, in some 
long-past spring, had come thundering down 
from the cliffs above, burying under it all 
further trace of the vein, no outcropping of 
which was visible in the rocks again exposed 
a quarter of a mile beyond, so far as they 
could make out after a wearisome tramp of 
investigation. 

It was evident that they had not been the 
first to go over this ground, for nigh under the 
foot of the land-slide, which was now a bank 
of richest flowers, some nodding on tall stems 
in the splendor of purple, scarlet and gold, 
others equally gaudy but more lowly, bearing 
blossoms modestly beautiful in white and 
brown, they found a pit ten or twelve feet 
deep, sunken into the rock. 

The stone which had been thrown out of 
this pit was examined with great care, and 
Max even scrambled down to its bottom and 
flaked off more specimens, which he tossed up 
with exclamations of rejoicing. They cer- 



36 



MAX HAS A AT IDEA. 



tainly showed a far larger proportion of the 
brown mineral, in which our prospectors 
were taking so much interest, than anything 
that had yet been seen, and strengthened the 
notion that it increased in plenty the farther 
the vein w^as followed. 

Now let us see if we were right about 
the bending, " Max remarked, when he had 
climbed out of the prospect-hole. 

''All right," Len answered, his tongue ham- 
pered by bunches of the acrid purple berries 
of the Oregon grape, which not only filled 
his mouth, but puckered his lips. '' Can you 
trace the outcrop all the way?" 

No, but I'm going to climb up on this 
slide a little ways, and then have you go back 
and stand at the edge of the cliff, while 
Sandy stands midway between us. I can see 
then whether the vein curves. " 

" Why, of course it does, " called out the 
Scotchman, who had quietly mounted the 
broken face of the land-slide, until he could 
overlook the ground. ''The vein just fol- 



MAX HAS AN IDEA. 



37 



lows along the base o' this low ridge here, 
and I can see that it curves quite de- 
cidedly." 

What ridge?" 

You can scarcely glint it, I dare say, 
where you stan', but come up here, and you 
will see it plainly. It's lang and narrow." 

The others mounted to his side, and then 
could easily discern that a narrow ridge, 
like the ruins of a big wall which had been 
made of white rock but now was fallen and 
overgrown with weeds and briers, stretched 
in a gentle curve from the brink of the gulch 
to the foot of the land-slide, where it seemed 
a trifle narrower than at the cliff. 

"And look there," said Max, pointing 
with his finger straight across the gulch to 
the gray wall of the opposite mountain, 
which seemed to rise almost plumb from the 
bed of Panther Creek. Look ! Do you 
see that whitish upright patch, with the 
darker streaks on each side of it, extending 
up and down the face of the cliff?" 



38 



MAX HAS AN IDEA. 



" Ay," they assented together, Lennox add- 
ing, " It's like a Kensington panel." 

Plainly that panel is the continuation of 
this ridge and the vein, which have been cut 
through by the creek. 

"But there's another vein on the other side 
apparently. " 

Yes, that must be the extension of the 
Aurora lead. And if I am not mistaken this 
ridge is a wedge of porphyry, what geologists 
call a dyke, thrust up between these two 
veins. Probably it narrows in or pinches, as 
they say, just here, and further on would 
thicken again. " 

** Do you mean that it split what was 
originally one vein, " Len asked, " and pried 
the halves apart ? " 

" No, I should say not, for, as you know, 
the rock in the Last Chance is different 
from that in the Aurora. Probably the dyke 
was formed first, and the lodes came after- 
ward by forcing themselves between it and 
the trachyte-body of the mountain. " 



MAX HAS AN IDEA. 



39 



"That's a' vera interesting," was Sandy's 
dry remark, "but, in my eegnorance, permeet 
me to ask how it affects our eenterests 
practically? A blind man's nae judge o' 
colors, ye ken. " 

" I am not sure that it affects our interests 
at all, and yet I have an idea it may. " 

"Trot out your little idea!" exclaimed 
Len, with characteristic impatience ; and with 
equally characteristic caution Max declined to 
do so until he had thought more about it. 
Whereupon, with good-natured compliance, 
his questioners departed and busied them- 
selves in hunting for more of the tart berries 
of the Oregon grape, which grew purple 
among the lichen-printed stones. 

Returning half an hour later they found 
Max pacing slowly down the crest of the 
ridge like a sentinel on a rampart. 

" I want you fellows to help me get the 
breadth or thickness of this dyke here as 
nearly as we can come at it." 

"How?" asked Len. 



40 



MAX HAS A IV IDEA. 



" Oh, by pacing over the ridge and estima- 
ting it carefully." 

They decided after a close examination 
that it was about one hundred feet in thick- 
ness at that point, or, at any rate, consider- 
ably less than the distance between the Last 
Chance and Aurora lodes, at the mouths of 
their respective tunnels. 

Then they strolled back to their cabin, 
where Sandy busied himself in mixing raised 
bread for the evening meal, while Max stuck 
a lamp in his cap and disappeared within the 
Aurora tunnel. 

When, that evening, the trio were ready to 
sit down together again around a cheerful 
fire outside the house. Max threw off his 
reserve and began to talk. 

" I suppose you fellows think I've been a 
running things in a high-handed sort of a way 
this afternoon, but I had to do a bit of study- 
ing over my idea before I could get it into 
such a shape that I could explain it to you, 
and get your help intelligently. See?" 




SITUATION OF THE TWO MINES. 
Silver Caves, Page 41. 



MAX HAS AN IDEA. 



41 



" Ay," Sandy answered for both. " Ilka 
bird must hatch its ain egg." 

" Well, this is the egg I have been incuba- 
ting. I am convinced that there is nothing 
to be got out of the Aurora ; it's just a dead 
quartz-lode all through. But our mine will 
show more and more of the stuff we want the 
deeper we go, or else I am greatly mis- 
taken." 

But it will take all the fall to clean that 
tunnel out and timber it up so as to be safe!" 
Len grumbled. 

" Exactly ! Now the Aurora is open and 
has a firm roof. She runs right alongside of 
ours, with only that dyke between them like a 
stone partition, and goes about one hundred 
feet further into the hillside. My notion is to 
go to the end of the Aurora, cut through the 
dyke into the Last Chance lode, and so get 
quickly at new rock, beyond any reached by 
our old drift, wdiere I believe the mineral will 
be found richer, since all that we can learn 
goes to show that the lode improves steadily 



42 



MAX HAS AN IDEA. 



in the quantity of that brown stuff which it 
carries. What do you think of it ?" 

It sounds very reasonable indeed," Len 
agreed instantly, and went on to elaborate 
the plan with his customary enthusiasm, but 
the more cautious nature of McKinnon 
asserted itself in questions. 

D' ye ken whether the dyke-rock is haird 
or saft?" he inquired, among other things. 

** Not certainly," Max answered. It's easy 
enough to work at the surface, but it may 
be much tougher down below. It appears to 
be coarse porphyry all through, however, 
and that usually does not make very hard 
digging." 

''Should we have to blast?" 
I suppose so, now and then," 

" Do you know how ? " 

" Oh yes, that is not a difficult matten 
when one has cartridges of giant powder." 

" How long do you suppose it will take 
to dig through the partition ?" 

" Can't say. If v/e work hard and have 



MAX HAS AN IDEA. 



43 



good luck, I should think we ought to 
cross-cut the dyke in from two to three 
weeks." 

These objections, and all the obstacles 
likely to be encountered, as well as the 
probable success of the venture, having been 
thoroughly discussed and a favorable de- 
cision reached, no time was lost, next day, in 
beginning upon their plan of opening at the 
farthest end a cross-cut through the porphyry 
dyke separating the Aurora from their own 
vein. 

The whole of the first day's toil, however, 
was expended in setting the broken car (of 
wdiich I have already spoken) in good shape 
upon its wheels ; in dragging it over to the 
other mine, a work of no little difficulty, and 
in clearing the floor of the tunnel of fallen 
fragments, so that the car could be pushed 
along the rails without impediment. 

On the second day, however, digging could 
be done in earnest. As only two could work 
to advantage at once, and as they did not 



44 



MAX HAS AN IDEA. 



care to labor for ten or twelve hours at a 
stretch, they arranged a series of watches by 
which each one had about two hours in the 
tunnel and then two hours outside, when he 
could be attending to the house, preparing 
meals, or, as presently became necessary, stand 
guard over the defenses. 

The rock of the dyke proved to be a pink- 
ish quartzose porphyry, containing crystals 
of felspar, garnets, — many of which were very 
perfect, and these were carefully saved by the 
miners, — hornblende and several other min- 
erals. Though in many places so tough that 
they were obliged to drill holes and blast it, 
much of the time the rock could be knocked 
down with the pick, and at one point proved to 
be so soft and spongy that it fairly crumbled 
under their blows, and they made as much 
progress in one morning as had before cost 
two whole days of labor. 

As fast as the rock was tumbled down 
from the breast it was shoveled into a wheel- 
barrow and taken to the mouth of the cross- 



MAX HAS AN- IDEA. 



45 



cut, where it was reloaded into the little car 
which ran on rails in the old Aurora. As 
soon as this had been filled, it was pushed 
out to the mouth of the tunnel and its cargo 
thrown down the side of the mountain, over 
the front of the great dump of waste rock 
already built out from the mouth of the cave. 

Thus two weeks of hard and systematic 
work with shovel, pick and barrow, carried 
them through the dyke, and on the morning 
of the fifteenth day their tools struck into 
the darker and wholly different vein-rock of 
their own lode, a hundred feet or so beyond 
the breast, or interior end, of the Last Chance 
tunnel. 



OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER. 



47 



CHAPTER V. 



OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER. 

One day when our miners were nearing the 
end of their cross-cut, Old Bob was sitting 
in his cabin down in the outskirts of the vil- 
lage, trying with his squinting eyes and 
stiff fingers to mend a pair of brown duck 
trousers, which were past any further wear- 
ing without repairs. 

He was worrying and muttering over this 
miserable task, when he heard hurried 
footsteps approach and stop at the door. A 
moment later it was pushed open and a man 
entered whom he did not recognize, 

I 'spose likely you don't know me," the 
stranger said. I'm Scotty." 

" Scotty, eh ? Well, stranger, I don't 
know ye much better by that, but take a 

49 



50 OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER. 

cheer. Did ye come over the range ? and 
did ye have any business with' me?" 

The stranger sat down, took from his 
pocket a flat-bottle, unscrewed the top and 
offered it to his host. 

Bob received it, remarked civilly, " Well, 
here's how," and poured a deep draught of 
its contents down his throat. Then wiping 
his lips with the back of his hand he passed 
the bottle back, with the comment : 

" You air a gentleman, sir, or you wouldn't 
be passin' round whisky 's good as that." 

" Well, I try to treat a square man right 
when I meet him. Do you remember a 
little scrimmage in the El Dorado a few days 
ago with a feller in your camp here, named 
Morris ? I gues3 you wa'n't there." 

"No," Bob replied, " I had other business 
that night. But I heerd about it, and came 
darned near being hung afterward by a 
little mistake o' the boys, who thought I 
was hiding the feller they bounced out of 
town so suddent." 



OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER. 



51 



Didn't you hear his name ?" 
" No — nobody knowed him, and I never 
set eyes on the coon." 
" I'm the man." 

"You?" yelled Bob — surprised fairly out 
of his wits. 

''Yes, that's me, and I reckon its all 
right." 

''Well, Scotty," Bob replied. "I've drunk 
v^ith you, and when I drink with a man he's 
my friend ; but ef I hadn't you'd have to 
get right out o' this, 'cause I aint got use 
for fellers like you." 

" Now, Mr. — ? " The visitor hesitated, 
in a questioning way, evidently wishing the 
name to be supplied. 

" No matter about the mister, call me 
Bob as the rest of the boys do. I hain't 
mistered you yet." 

"Now, Bob," Scotty began again, "you 
may be prejudiced. That aint fair as 
between friends. You ought to hear both 
sides. I'm not so bad a man as they make 



52 



OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER. 



out in this 'ere camp. Fact is, we were all 
pretty high-strung that night, and a little 
rumpus oughtn't to be laid up agin a gen- 
tleman who tries to deal square and make 
an honest livin'. I don't lay up nothin' 
agin Morris. We just pulled pistols on one 
another as gentlemen will sometimes, ye 
know, and he got the drop. That's all. 
Now a man like me shouldn't be sent out 
o' town for a little thing like that. It's an 
outrage, and you know it. Bob." 

Yes," the upright Robert assented. 

It's a big outrage. Mor'n that, I b'lieve 
the boys would see it now, 'n' nobody'd 
say a word if you were to go into the El 
Dorado to-night. I'll risk it, 'n' I'll intro- 
duce you as my friend, and then let any 
one object if he thinks best ! " 

" There's one young feller you can't catch 
with no chaff like that, and if I get a good 
chance, I'll break his head." 
Who's that ? " 

Don't know his name, a tall, red-bearded 



OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER. 53 



galoot, that looks like a Scotchman. Now 
I'm part Scotch myself and I admire the 
way he hit me under the ear, for my coun- 
try's sake, but all the same I owe him 
one ! " 

**Why, that must be that new pardner of 
Brehm and Bushwick's up the creek." 

" Very likely. He'd just come up in the 
stage and was askin' after a man o' that 
name." 

Describing him to one another, they 
agreed that Sandy was the object of Scotty's 
special aversion. This knock-down incident 
(into which it is unnecessary to go more par- 
ticularly) was only one more count against 
the firm, and a new bond uniting this 
precious pair of scallawags. How and why 
Bob hated Max and Lennox we know ; for 
a still better reason the gambler fostered a 
grudge against Sandy. They needed no 
oath-taking, therefore, to make them firm 
allies in any plan which might present itself 
to get revenge and possible profit ; but in 



54 



OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER. 



respect to the latter point they had deceived 
themselves into a belief that our young 
friends had far more money than was really 
the case. 



PROGRESS IN MINING. 



55 



CHAPTER VL 



PROGRESS IN MINING. 

Almost as soon as Max had dug through 
the dyke, and penetrated the Last Chance 
lode, he saw, to his great satisfaction, that he 
had reasoned correctly, for the vein showed 
even here a much larger proportion than 
before of the brown streaks and nodules, 
which, in their opinion, constituted its value. 
Whether the rest of the gangue carried gold 
or silver, could not be known, but that this 
rusty material contained one or the other 
they felt confident. The assurance that it in- 
creased the deeper the vein was followed, 
therefore gave them great encouragement 
and raised their enthusiasm to the highest 
pitch. 

The moment this vein was struck, however, 
a new difficulty met them, for they found 
that in this part it was full of crevices, 

57 



58 PROGRESS IN MINING. 



through which water percolated from above. 
At first this water was disregarded and 
trickled out through the cross-cut, but as 
they advanced in their digging it grew more 
and more troublesome, and harmful to their 
health. Max therefore proposed to cut a 
drain down through the vein of the Last 
Chance to the old tunnel entrance, and soon 
convinced the others that it was necessary to 
do so. 

This was certainly a misfortune, and an un- 
looked for one. It consumed valuable time, 
cost money which they could ill spare, and 
was in itself an intensely disagreeable job, 
since the workmen would be compelled to 
use the pick upon their hands and knees, or 
lying down, and always with wet clothing, 
since it would not pay to clear out the hole 
to the size of a regular tunnel, but only to 
make a passage-way through which the water 
might escape from the interior of the mine ; 
furthermore, the old tunnel, when it had been 
reached, must be somewhat cleared, to allow 



PROGRESS IN MINING. 59 



of a proper passage of the water, in spite of 
the fact that it was an unsafe and unpleasant 
place to do work in. 

Cheered by the thought of future success, 
all went at this disagreeable task with great 
alacrity, shortening the hours and avoiding 
all needless labor. As small a tube was 
made as it was possible to work in, but now 
and then a hard surface would require severe 
work, and these obstacles were dreaded, after 
the first experience, for behind them, when 
the shell was broken, would often be found a 
little cavity more or less full of water, which 
would gush out by the bucketful and once 
or twice threatened to drown the young 
miners like so many ground-squirrels in a 
burrow. 

The distance they were obliged to go was 
only about thirty yards, and as they worked 
toward one another, from both ends, they 
made their way through in about ten days. 
It was a very irregular and unsafe hole, but it 
drained the rock almost perfectly and served 



6o PROGRESS IN MINING, 



them afterward in another way quite as im- 
portant. 

As, by this new plan, a door was unneces- 
sary on the Last Chance while it might pos- 
sibly be wanted some day at the Aurora, it 
was removed and set up frame and all at the 
mouth of the other tunnel, which could now 
be locked if necessary. This door proved a 
benefit also, in helping them to regulate the 
draft of air. 

The only incident worth recording that 
broke their daily loneliness and labor during 
all the month which had now nearly gone by, 
was the advent of a visitor, who appeared 
one evening about the time they had com- 
pleted the cross-cut. 

He was a tramping miner who said he had 
crossed the range from the South, and 
begged to be allowed to spend the night at 
their cabin. A man of decent appearance 
would have been welcomed gladly, but this 
applicant was an ill-featured, coarse-grained, 
blasphemous fellow, whom they disliked at 



PROGRESS IN MINING. 6i 



once, and yet could not well turn away. It 
was with great relief, therefore, that they saw 
him take his thin frame down the trail next 
morning. In addition to his disagreeable 
manner he had been much more inquisitive 
and prying than they liked, and had plainly 
shown himself angry because they had not 
made a full confidant of him. 

Let us follow this visitor and find out more 
of his habits and associates. It is scarcely 
fair to condemn a man forever out of a single 
day's experience. 



A DIME NOVEL HERO. 



63 



CHAPTER VII. 



A DIME NOVEL HERO. 

When their unpleasant guest departed from 
the cabin of our heroes, he marched straight 
down to Bob's cabin in the village and there 
found himself heartily welcomed. Old Bob 
introduced him to Scotty as " Bill Stevens — 
a fellow who knows the San Juan like his 
own barn-yard." Scotty said he was glad to 
see him, and no doubt he was, for he felt in 
need of friends, and this new man, as a chum 
of Bob's and evidently training in the same 
band, would of course become an ally of his. 
This Scotty needed ; though he had not been 
sent out of town a second time, and was per- 
mitted to lounge around the El Dorado and 
to sit at the gambling-tables, or join the 
story-telling circles at the public corral, he 
saw that most of the men whom he met were 



66 



A DIME NOVEL HERO. 



far from cordial toward him, and that his ear- 
nest efforts to be agreeable were of small 
avail in making friends. It did not suit his 
plans to resent this, nor to leave the camp in 
search of a more congenial community ; so he 
put up with the unpopularity as well as he 
could. It galled him, however, and caused 
him to lay up hatred rather than love toward 
the whole population of the valley. 

As soon as Bill Stevens' back was turned, 
Scotty took occasion to inquire somewhat 
about him. Bob really knew little of his his- 
tory, except that, as he said, they had been 

pards " in a little game some time previous, 
after which Stevens had thought it prudent 
to go away. Scotty pressed Old Bob to 
know the particulars of this partnership enter- 
prise, but Bob declined at first to tell them. 
Finally, however, he exclaimed : 

" Well, I s'pose you might as well know, its 
only another point against them dod-rotted 
young swells up the creek. The fact is, when 
Brehm and his partner lived down in that 



A DIME NOVEL HERO. 



67 



there cabin 'cross the bridge yonder, Bush- 
wick went off to Denver. By'n bye he came 
back with a heap o' cash — don' know how 
much — mebbe a thousand or so. 'Bout that 
time Bill came over to see me from t'other 
side the range, and I was telling about it, you 
know. Well Bill, he made out 's how Bush- 
wick didn't have no right to the money no 
how, havin' stole it from somebody else by 
some kind of lawyer's game, and 'twas as 
much ours as his'n or anybody's, which of 
course that is true, providin' he got it by 
swindlin', which like enough he did, you 
know." 

" So you and Bill held him up, did you ? 
No, w^e didn't have no chance to rob him 
on the road, but we thought we could get 
into his cabin easy enough. So we tried it, 
Stevens climbin' softly into the winder and I 
outside a-holdin' the ladder. He'd got e'en-a 
'most in, when bang went a gun and out 
tumbled Bill on top o'me. I thought we was 
both killed sure, but Bill picked himself up, 



68 



A DIME NOVEL HERO. 



and we lit out as though the Old Scratch 
himself was after us, which the same he 
mighty near was." 

''Didn't hit Stevens, then?" Scotty in- 
quired, with a grin which showed how well he 
enjoyed the comical side of the situation, and 
how little his conscience was touched by the 
villainy of the story. 

" No, but it was an awful close call. Great 
Csesar ! But Max Brehm kin shoot, now you 
just bet ! " 

Does Stevens know that the boys up the 
creek where he stopped t'other night are the 
same fellows ? " 

" I guess not ; he aint said nothin* about 
it." 

''If he did know, I reckon there'd be three 
of us as thought we owed the fine gentlemen 
a little debt of honor, which the same we 
hadn't ought, on no account, to fail to pay — 
eh?" 

Scotty's leer and chuckle were as long as 
these slow and wicked words, and Bob's 



A DIME NOVEL HERO. 



69 



squinty and bleary eye answered with a dis- 
torted, left-handed, evil grin of comprehen- 
sion as he snarled out the laconic assent : 
Bet yer boots ! " 

And yet this is the kind of men whom so 
many well-meaning but romantically inclined 
eastern boys, knowing the far West only as 
they read of it in cheap books of a very poor 
sort, regard as heroes in disguise, and long to 
see and associate with. Thieves and cramblers 
at home are justly abhorred by them, yet 
the same man, perhaps, transplanted to the 
Rockies to escape the sheriff at home, be- 
comes in these flashy books a sort of chiv- 
alrous knight whose uncouth ways only 
heighten his supposed virtues. 

This is the w^orst of nonsense. A brave, 
heroic man does not show himself in this 
garb. The honest heroes of the Rockies 
never figure in dime novels and never will. 
They are not loud and "chinny" enough for 
that. They do not wear long hair, nor carry 
a big Kentucky rifle, nor appear and disappear 



70 



A DIME NOVEL HERO. 



in any mysterious Jack-in-the-box manner. 
They are not accustomed to kill six or eight 
"red-skinned varmints" at a single blow, and 
if ever they are engaged in Indian warfare, 
are far too wise to get so surrounded by a cir- 
cle of Indians that they are obliged to take a 
standing leap over the heads of their foes, 
as did Eagle-eye or some other scout I once 
read of. If they tried to behave in this way, 
or to dress in story-book fashion, they would 
be hung or driven out by men of action 
who have no time to spend watching Bowery- 
museum foolishness, and whose business 
would be harmed by its display. 

There is in every mining district a class of 
men who behave more or less as these novels 
portray, going as far toward it, anyhow, leav- 
ing out some of the theatrical foolishness, as 
they dare ; and I suppose they form the 
material out of which the writers of the sorry 
stuff try to make their heroes. But as a 
matter of fact they are lawless scamps, brutal, 
lowlived, ignorant, unclean men, with whom 



A DIME NOVEL HERO. 



71 



not one in fifty of their admirers among the 
readers of these false and miserable tales 
would allow himself to be seen on the streets 
of the town where he was born. They are 
more noisy and more difficult to separate 
from their betters in the rough and un- 
arranged surroundings of a new mining camp 
or cattle district, than they would be in an 
eastern village where the affairs of life are 
well classified ; but they are none the less 
avoided and despised by good citizens, and 
are feared rather than trusted in any emer- 
gency, like an Indian war, which calls for 
courage and discretion. 

I cannot conceive of a more complete dis- 
appointment and experience of fraud, than 
would meet the romantic reader of the Indian- 
slaying and horse-stealing tales in yellow 
covers, who should go on a search through the 
far West for the originals of those thrilling 
pictures. 

Ruffianly men exist and attempt their 
wicked schemes among honest men, who, in 



72 A DIME NOVEL HERO. 



the absence of regular police protection, and 
at the great distance which many mines and 
ranches lie from courts, are often obliged to 
defend themselves as soldiers would in an 
enemy's country, or as any man has a right 
to do when attacked by robbers. But, boys, 
for the sake of all that is fair and square, let 
us call a ruffian a ruffian, and not attempt to 
see glory in the doings of a horse-thief, or a 
gambler, or a man who tries by force of rifle 
and pistol to seize upon property which does 
not belong to him. 

While Scotty and Bob were discussing the 
achievements by which Mr. William Stevens, 
so called, had made himself distinguished, 
that worthy came in, bringing a new bag of 
cheap black tobacco. Filling their pipes, the 
three scallawags sat down in front of the 
coals smouldering in the adobe fireplace, and 
Bob immediately began to tell Stevens the 
names of the miners whose hospitality he 
enjoyed the night before, and how eager he 
ought to be to join the other two in a scheme 



A DIME NOVEL HERO. 



73 



to break them down. Partly from ignorance, 
partly by design, they exaggerated to each 
other the injury each had suffered, and also 
the amount of plunder which it was likely 
might be obtained from the firm of B. B. & 
Co. The upshot of it all, was a compact 
between them to "get even" with the lads. 
This meant to rob them and drive them from 
the town, or, if it was at all necessary, to kill 
them, accounting for their crime by some 
artful story of self-defense or the like. 

They were in no great hurry, however, to 
carry out their wicked purposes, and three 
or four days passed without their making any 
movement, since no plan suggested itself that 
seemed promising. 

One evening Old Bob came home and 
remarked, as he took the coffee-mill between 
his knees and began to fill it from a buck- 
skin bag that hung against the chimney, that 
Morris had returned from below, and that he 
had talked with him a little. 

" Did he say he loved ye ?" inquired Scotty, 



74 



A DIME NOVEL HERO. 



in sarcastic tones, and betraying a little un- 
easiness as to what might follow when Morris 
should hear of his return in defiance of the 
order of banishment. 

''Wall — no, I reckon he's soured on me," 
was Bob's candid response. " But that 
didn't phase me. I wanted mighty bad to 
find out suthin', and I played sweet and boned 
him for the information. " 

'' Did he play sweet, too, and tell ye ?" 

*'Wall — no. But all the same I found out 
what I wanted. I let on I'd heard Jim 
Bowen was dead, and asked him was it true." 
What did he say ? " 

" Oh, he glared at me, as though he was a 
bull buffalo and I was a ky-yote, 'n' just says 
* dead and buried,' and then he marched off 
as if he'd been sent for. I'll get even with 
that sardine yet ! " 

This was a pretty accurate account of what 
really had passed between them. In fact, 
Morris had just been hunting with '* Buckeye 
Jim" Bowen all that week, and knew he was 




SCOTTY AND OLD BOB. 
Silver Caves, Page 74. 



A DIME NOVEL HERO. 



75 



as much alive as anybody had need to be ; 
but Morris hated Bob, thought he had no 
business to be playing the hypocrite and ask- 
ing questions about what was none of his 
affair, and so sent him off with this short and 
reckless answer, not thinking or caring how 
much Bob might believe of it. 

So the Terror's passed in his checks, eh?" 
was Scotty s comment. " He wasn't a bad sort 
of a party. I used to know him in Illinoy. 
They runrted him off because they said he 
stole some horses, — fine nags they was, too. 
But it turned out he wasn't the feller after 
all. I could 'a' told 'em all the time they 
was wrong, only it wouldn't a'-been quite 
healthy. " 

"Why?" asked Stevens, whose wits were 
not of the quickest. Did you know the 
right man ? " 

I should smile ! / stole them horses, 
pardner ! But, Bob, what made you so anx- 
ious to know whether Buckeye Jim was dead ? " 

Cause it fixes us O. K. The boys up 



76 A DIME NOVEL HERO. 



the creek are working his mine. I don't 
know whether they've got any show of right 
about it or not, but now Jim's dead I reckon 
they'd have hard work to keep it if we war to 
jump it." 

Do you know what it it is to jump a mine ? 
It means simply to seize it without any right, 
and hold it by force, a thing very often suc- 
cessful when the first claimant has no legal 
title to the property. 

Bob's proposition interested the others at 
once, and they began to discuss it eagerly. 
Stevens asserted that it was the middle one 
of the three mines at the head of the creek, 
namely the Aurora, that the boys were work- 
ing. He confessed that he had not gone into 
it, but was sure that he was right. There was 
too much water in the upper tunnel near the 
cabin, he assured them, to do anything there. 

Don't you 'spose Morris knows that these 
boys have jumped Buckeye's mine?" asked 
Scotty, who remembered that Bowen partly 
owned the Aurora. 



A DIME NOVEL HERO. 



11 



Tain't likely," Bob answered. " But it 
will be just as well to keep him from findin' 
out they're in there, if we can, for fear of 
any interference. I reckon he feels friendly 
toward 'em by reason of helpin' him in your 
El Dorado scrape." 

The very next morning, therefore, the three 
conspirators were thrown into a quiver of 
alarm, by seeing both Len and Max in town. 
Bob met them at the post-office, and loitered 
around, hoping, even if Morris should appear, 
that he might be able by some good chance 
to prevent their meeting. He thus heard Max 
tell the postmaster that they meant to stay 
in town until the next day, and took it for 
granted, from something else which he over- 
heard, that the Scotchman had come in also, 
leaving the mine and cabin alone over-night. 

The moment he heard this. Old Bob hast- 
ened to find his partners and to say that now 
was their opportunity to go up the creek, get 
a look at the property, and make a plan for 
capturing it. Scotty and Stevens agreed 



78 A DIME NOVEL HERO. 



that this was advisable, and borrowing horses, 
the three rattled up the road to Panther 
Creek as fast as possible, since no time ought 
to be wasted if they were to get back before 
sundown, and to travel on those mountain 
trails in the darkness is by no means a com- 
fortable or safe proceeding. 



HOW 

LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR. 



79 



CHAPTER VIII. 



HOW LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR. 

Entirely unaware that Old Bob had re- 
garded them with so much interest, or had 
been so glad to overhear the fact that they 
would spend the night in town, Len and Max 
hastened to finish their errands, and then to 
go about the principal business which had 
brought them on the long walk to town. In 
one important point their squint-eyed friend 
had misunderstood them badly, — Sandy had 
remained at the mine. 

As soon as possible, therefore, the two 
young men took their way briskly down the 
familiar path which led to the home of an 
old fellow who was known in the camp as 

Mr. Professor." His queer, solitary habits 
and sharp tongue had made him rather un- 
popular, but everyone acknowledged his ex- 

8i 



82 HOW LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR, 



pertness in judging ores, and his opinion was 
often sought by those who dared to face him. 

" Are you sure you remember the shape of 
the specimens?" Max asked, for the twen- 
tieth time. 

" As certain as anybody can be," Len 
replied confidently. 

As they approached the professor s cabin, 
they saw that worthy chopping at a log 
beside it, whereupon they slackened their 
eager pace and sauntered up to his door 
with an air of unconcern. 

Good morning, Professor," said Len 
pleasantly. 

Mornin'," was the short reply, while the 
chips flew right and left. 

You must have learned how to chop in 
some good school," Max observed, in a tone 
expressing admiration. 

" Raised in No'th Ca'lina," was the gruff 
response. 

Is that so ? " Len exclaimed. Why, 
that's not far from my home — I was raised 



HOW LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR. 83 



in Roanoke county, Virginia. Sorry I didn't 
know that before. I should have liked to 
come over and talked with you about things 
down in that region. Don't see many men 
out here that know much about the Piedmont 
country. Were you ever up in Roanoke?" 
Many a time." 
Thus the ice was broken, and the lads won 
their way through the crust which this stern 
old miner was proud to wear, though it cut 
him off more and more from the society of 
those around him, who voted him an unso- 
sociable old curmudgeon that somehow had 
picked up a lot of information about rocks 
and ores. 

Max did not smoke, but he had bought 
the best cigar he could get in town, for the 
special purpose of giving it to the old man, 
and this gift, with Len's pleasant chat, quite 
thawed the professor in the course of a 
quarter of an hour or so. Len was very 
diplomatic. He seemed to be in no hurry, 
but finally steered the conversation around 



84 I/O IV LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR. 



to rare minerals. Then, as if by chance, he 
recalled a package he had brought to the 
professor from Denver, on his return from 
that recent journey which Bob had alluded to 
in his conversation with Scotty, and asked 
the old man to show him the specimens again, 
and to tell him more about them than he 
had done on the evening when they were de- 
livered. 

Ordinarily a request like this would have 
met with refusal ; but now the old man con- 
sented at once, and led the way into his 
cabin. 

Many rude little shelves were stuck up 
against the log walls, upon which were 
heaped dusty rows of minerals and various 
other objects. One shelf contained several 
cigar-boxes. These the professor took down 
and opened one after another. Rummaging 
through half a dozen he finally found the one 
he wanted, and unfolded from their wrap- 
pings the five small bits of rock which Len- 
nox had brought to him from Denver. 



HOW LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR. 85 



Selecting three of the specimens the pro- 
fessor took them to the light and began to 
talk about what they represented. 

" That's an ore of tellurium," he said, hold- 
ing one of the pieces between his thumb and 
finger, *'and it carries gold, — or may some- 
times — a right smart percentage of it, too — 
in the shape of a telluride. It is a very nice 
smelting ore and a valuable one." 

"Is there much of it in the Rockies?" 
he was asked. 

Mighty little's been found yet, worse luck. 
It almost always occurs in veins with a lot of 
lead and other stuff, and everywhere I have 
ever seen it, it's alongside a porphyry dyke." 

This last remark made Len's heart jump, 
but he showed no excitement. In a well- 
controlled voice he remarked that he wished 
they had a magnifying glass so that the pro- 
fessor might point out to them more effec- 
tively the peculiarities of the mineral, which 
he was turning over in his fingers. 

I've a good one," the old miner answered. 



86 IfOlV LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR. 



" I'll get it," and he stepped back into the 
cabin. 

Instantly Len drew from his pocket three 
fragments of the brown rock taken from the 
deepest part of the Last Chance lode, and 
slipped the Denver specimens out of sight. 
He thought the change would not be noticed ; 
certainly there was no difference between 
the former and latter specimens discernible 
to a careless eye, and if they deceived this 
expert, he might feel sure that his pieces 
of ore were as truly tellurium as were the 
others. 

The professor came out wiping the lenses of 
a small but powerful magnifier upon the lining 
of his old coat. Taking one of the changed 
specimens unsuspectingly from Len's hand, 
he began to scrutinize it very carefully under 
the microscope. 

" By George," he exclaimed, that's a bully 
specimen ! I wonder where Pete," — his Den- 
ver aquaintance, — "got it. I never saw any- 
thing richer in tellurides." 



no IV ZEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR. 87 



Then he took the other pieces and ex- 
amined those in the same way. Guess the 
glass must 'a' been dusty when I looked at 
'em before," he muttered, as he handed them 
and the magnifier to Len that he might study 
them ; and then he went on to say what 
were the particles to be seen in the rusty 
rock which denoted the presence of tellu- 
ride of gold, and that certain other black 
spots, filling small cavities, seemed to be 
carbonate of lead, which might contain 
silver. 

" Well," he remarked, as the boys finished 
their examination, If Pete's got a mine of 
that stuff he ought to be a rich man pretty 
soon. It'll assay mighty high, or I don't 
know coals from chalk." 

To re-exchange the specimens and give the 
professor his own back again, was a matter 
of no great difficulty while they talked, and 
as both the lads were eager to get away by 
themselves and sing a song over their tokens 



88 HO W LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR. 



of success, it was not long before they took 
their leave, — the warmth of that proceeding 
causing the old miner considerable astonish- 
ment. 

" Darned queer fellows, them," he said to 
himself, as he watched them go down the 
road very sedately for a little way, then sud- 
denly fall to shaking one another by both 
hands and slapping one another's backs. 

" Bet you they've been a leetle too long 
at the El Dorado," he suggested aloud to 
himself, as there was no other auditor; and 
Himself quite agreed with the speaker. 

Now just look at that ! " 

They danced and chorused \}ci^\x yah, yahs! 
till they were out of breath, an ending not 
long delayed in the thin air of the high 
Rockies. And as the aged and weather- 
beaten wanderer looked at them, he felt such 
an attack of memory, and suffered such 
twinges of boyish feeling, as had not pierced 
his cynical old frame in many and many a 
day. 



BOW LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR. 89 



" They're way-iip boys ! " he exclaimed to 
himself. I hope they'll get the drop on 
that cantankerous old female they call For- 
tune, — and I reckon they will ! " 



SANDY McKINNON'S EAVES- 
DROPPING. 



91 



CHAPTER IX. 



SANDY MCKINNOn's EAVESDROPPING. 

Taking the absence of Max and Len as a 
holiday, Sandy locked the tunnel entrance, 
pulled the house-door shut (it never had a 
lock), and started off on a long tramp up the 
mountain, within an hour after his partners 
left the cabin. He carried his rifle, intent 
upon both game and glory, for apart from the 
desire for fresh venison in the larder, he 
thought it would be a fine thing to go back 
some day to Scotland and tell how, single- 
handed, he had met and killed a grizzly bear 
on some snowy pinnacle of the wild Sierra 
San Juan. 

He walked far and reached a great eleva- 
tion. He looked abroad upon magnificent 
pictures, shot an elk and some smaller ani- 
mals, and had a variety of interesting expe- 
riences, though he got no nearer a grizzly 

93 



94 



SAND TS EA VESDROPPING. 



than to catch sight of one on the further side 
of an impassable chasm. But these adven- 
tures do not come into our story, which was 
resumed in his surprising experiences that 
afternoon. 

Turning homeward, when warned to do so 
by the decHning sun, he was caught in a 
thunder-shower, which, at the great altitude 
where it encountered him, meant a deluge of 
sleet, hail, and most uncomfortably cold rain. 
Drenched, sore and shivering, Sandy made 
his way as rapidly as he was able down 
toward the crest of the cliff under which the 
cabin was sheltered. In the foggy condition 
of the air, — to those in the valley this fog 
was a rain-cloud, — and in his weary and half- 
dazed state, he passed beyond the point 
where the faint trail led down the precipice ; 
but early discovering his error, turned back, 
creeping slowly along the brink of the ledge 
in search of it. 

He had scarcely begun the search, how- 
ever, when he was startled by the sound of 



SAND TS EA VESDROPPING. 



95 



human voices. The first thought was that 
his partners had come back. The next 
instant, however, he perceived that the voices 
were strange to him, and with cautious 
curiosity he crept stealthily to the bushy 
brink and peered over the low cliff. 

He found himself squarely above the 
entrance to the Aurora, which was hardly 
fifty feet beneath him. Three rough men 
were standing on the dump in front of the 
tunnel, trying to open the door, but it stood 
firm under their pulling. They tried some 
keys, but none would fit the lock, and 
Sandy grinned as he thought of something 
his grandfather used to say, — Lock your 
door that you may keep your neighbor 
honest." 

"Let's smash it!" exclaimed the smallest 
of the three, whom we know to be Stevens. 

At the sound of his voice Sandy pricked 
up his ears ; he was sure it must be the same 
man who had spent a night at their cabin a 
few days before, and stolen the knife. He 



96 



SANDY'S EAVESDROPPING. 



could not see their faces, however, because of 
his position and their slouched hats. 

" No," objected the tallest, whose voice 
also seemed vaguely familiar to the listener 
— " No, we don't want *em to know we've 
been here ; leave no traces to set 'em a-watch- 
ing. We musn't disturb nothing, and we 
must get out o' here as soon as we can, so's 
not to be caught prospectin' their trail. 
What we want is to surprise 'em some fine 
mornin', when they aint lookin' for no visitors, 
drop on 'em like a gobbler on a June-bug. 1 
reckon there'll be some regular squealing fun 
'bout that time, eh, old pard ! " and Scotty 
banged the rheumatic back of his squint-eyed 
companion in a way that made Bob howl, and 
did Sandy's heart good. 

"You bet!" echoed Stevens, "and wont 
there be a racket afterward ! I aint had a 
real red-hot blow-out in a coon's age — I say, 
pard, it'll be at my expense, remember, all at 
my expense. I'll have the money and I'll 
spend it too, you'll see ! " 



SAND rS EA VESDROPPING. 



97 



Nae doot," was Sandy's inward soliloquy 
overhead; **but I'm thinkin' ye're cawking 
the claith ere the wab be in the loom." 

Oh, dry up!" came the gambler's rejoin- 
der. You're a fool ! You haven't got 
inside the mine yet. Now, mates, I reckon 
this is our best lay : To-day is Wednesday. 
We need time to get an outfit to live on cached 
near here, somewheres, so that after we've 
captured the place we can hold the fort for a 
little while, if they should come back at us. 
You see we've got to give *em back their grub 
and furniture, cause if we take that it's steal- 
in y and we aint no thieves, leastwise not 
in this deal." 

" A liar should hae a gude memory," 
thought Sandy. 

" And, besides, they could drop on us for 
that, whereas this is a free country and we've 
a perfect right to jump a man's claim — " 

*'Pervided we kin hold it!" Old Bob 
interrupted. 

Yes, of course. Well, as I was a-saying. 



98 



SAND TS EA VESDROPPING. 



to-day's Wednesday ; and I reckon Saturday 
night's about our figure. We'll come up here 
in the evening, and then along about twelve 
o'clock we'll capture this 'ere mine, and then 
bounce 'em right out o' their beds and send 
'em down the canon. Next day, if they're 
civil, we'll give 'em their blankets and notice 
to leave. And if they aint civil — " 

The villain paused and glared right and left 
at his companions, with a satanic grin on his 
face. Slowly drawing from the leg of his 
rust-red cowhide boot a huge knife, he fin- 
ished the sentence with slow and venomous 
emphasis, — 

" We'll give 'em this!" 

After that boodthirsty remark the three 
conspirators rose from their seats and scram- 
bled down the farther slope of the dump. 

So cold and stiff was the young Highlander 
with lying in wet clothes upon the rough 
rocks, that at first he could hardly travel ; 
but slowly picking his way down to the cabin 
he made haste first to build a fire, and after 




"WE'LL GIVE 'EM THIS.'' 
Silver Caves, Page 98. 



SANDY'S EAVESDROPPING. 



99 



giving himself a brisk rubbing, to put on dry 
clothing, so that no ill result ensued. 

He did not enjoy that night, alone among 
those storm-breeding heights, nearly as much 
as he had expected to, yet quickly fell asleep, 
not to awake until rather late on the fol- 
lowing morning. 

Hurrying through breakfast, he set off at 
once down the trail in hope of meeting Max 
and Len, for he thought it important to gain 
every moment between that and Saturday in 
the effort to forestall the enemy. 



FACING THE NEW SITUATION. 



lOI 



CHAPTER X. 



FACING THE NEW SITUATION. 

Sandy's partners, meanwhile, having left the 
village as early as possible, had made so 
good progress that the three met at about 
the half-way point. 

" Hello ! " Len sang out gaily, as he 
caught sight of Sandy, " here's our canny 
Scot ! But why makest thou such a walking 
arsenal of thyself? 'Fraid of Injuns?" 

" Weel," was the slow reply, as the tall son 
of Saint Andrew glanced down at himself, 
" he needs a long shankit spoon wha sups 
kail wi' the deil. I'm no likin' neeknames as 
a rule, but may be ye're no far wrang when 
you ca' me an arsenal. Did ye obsairve the 
new trick I've learned ? " 

Stooping down, while the twinkle in his 

eyes belied the gravity of his face, he 

103 



104 FACING THE NEW SITUATION. 



solemnly pulled from his boot-leg the long 
butcher-knife with which the boys were wont 
to slice their bacon. 

This was too much. Both tumbled upon 
the nearest bed of moss and made the rocky 
walls ring with shouts of laughter, but 
Sandy remained as grave as an undertaker. 

" Laugh at leisure, ye may greet ere e'en," 
he said in his proverbial style, adding, when 
they had checked their merriment, Now if 
you're wantin' to hear a vera pretty tale, why 
I'm willin' to tell ye, though you've not been 
ower respectfu' to a puir body during the last 
five minutes or so." 

*'Oh, go on Sandy, go on. We don't mind 
you're making yourself a scalp hunter from 
the wild west, if you like it. Go on, let's have 
your story. What sort of a mare's nest have 
you found this time } " 

" I'm not sure ye quite heard my remark 
aboot bein' respectfu' ; an' if I ha' foond a 
mare's nest, I'm thinking ye'll find yoursel' 
unco eenterested in the aiggs." 



FACING THE NEW SITUATION. 



After this parting shot Sandy began to tell 
what he had seen and heard, as he lay on the 
edge of the cliff. Two of the men he knew, 
as we have seen, and his description of the 
third at once identified him in the minds of 
the rest as Old Bob. 

" So that's where you learned to carry a 
knife in your boot is it ?" 

Ay," admitted Sandy, ''That's where I 
learned it. I was tickled, dinna ye ken, wi' 
the idea that a man like him, hating me as he 
did, should be teachin' me sumthin'." 

" But that's no way to carry a knife," Max 
interrupted with fine contempt. At least 
no gentleman would do so, though a gambler 
might." 

" How then ? " asked Sandy, considerably 
crest-fallen. " Where does a gentleman 
usually carry his bowie-knife ? " 

" Down the back of his neck." 

*' Weel, weel, what would my old grand- 
mither up in Dundee say to that ! This is 
what I'm thinkin' she would remark, that a 



io6 FACING THE NEW SITUATION. 



wise man orets learnin' frae them that has 
nane to themsel's." 

This ten-strike scored to Scotch credit, they 
settled down again to their study of the new 
situation, the full meaning of which grew 
upon them as they talked it over. 

" It strikes me," said Sandy, " that it wad be 
a gude thing if Bushwick were to go directly 
back to town and see that Mr. Morris. Per- 
haps, considerin' a' the saircumstances, he 
would watch the rascals a wee bit. I suppose 
he's na ower-fond o' that blackleg, and maybe 
he wad come up on Saturday night, and so gie 
us a bit o' help if we happened to be needin' 
it. Meanwhile Brehm an' mysel' will put our 
castle in a state o' defense, as it were." 

This course was decided upon. Len 
unslung his load of groceries, ammunition, the 
ever-welcome mail, and other purchases, and it 
was shouldered by Sandy, who gave him in 
return one of his pistols. Then Len started 
back toward town, caring little for the extra 
walk. 



FACING THE NEW SITUATION. 107 



The other two lads meanwhile hastened 
home, busily talking as they strode along. 

Max recounted how Lennox had secured 
an. entirely unbiased judgment from the old 
miner, who had assured them positively that 
the brown stuff which had been so long the 
object of their attention was certainly a tel- 
luride ore of gold, and apparently a rich one. 

''Ay, that sounds well," Sandy assented, 
"but can you be quite certain this Professor, 
as you dub him, kens well what he's talkin' 
aboot ? " 

*' I think he does," Max assured his friend, 
and gave his reason. 

" But how has it escaped notice hereto- 
fore ? " the Scotchman persisted. 

"It's an extremely uncommon ore in north- 
ern Colorado, where most of the mining has 
been done up to this time, and few of our 
citizens have ever seen it. Moreover, I sup- 
pose the early prospectors here were looking 
wholly for chlorides, or sulphurets, or ruby 
silver, or some other well known ores of that 



io8 FACING THE NEW SITUATION. 



sort, and this is like none of these, or any 
other silver indication I know of. Bnt if they 
had gone a little deeper, I am inclined to think 
they'd have found plenty of that, too, and 
consequently, that we would never have got 
possession of this prospect hole." 

" What makes you say that?" 

"Oh, I judge so from the way the rock 
looks." 

''Then you think we may strike a silver 
ore in addition to this telluride of gold?" 

" Don't know, can't see into the ground 
further'n your pick-point. Sorry I didn't get 
a letter from the Denver assayer, to whom we 
sent our specimens for analysis. I expected 
to have heard from him by this time." 

As they neared the house they fell to dis- 
cussing what it would be best to do toward 
preparing for their unwelcome visitors. 
Sandy asked why they could not have Old 
Bob and his crew arrested, whereupon Max 
explained the loose condition of legal matters 
in that country, and that they had no ground 



FACING THE NEW SITUATION. 



to stand a trial upon. Sandy had no wit- 
nesses to threats he had heard. They could 
not legally prevent any one from going on the 
Aurora dump, or into the Aurora tunnel, or 
even from staying in it, since it was not their 
property, and they themselves were there 
only by permission. This gave them no 
rights which they could defend without blame. 

" But we have such rights in the Last 
Chance premises," Sandy persisted, "and can 
protect that ?" 

Yes, but in this region it would be a 
poor plan to call in the sheriff, at any 
rate before we're attacked ; and when the 
attack comes on I reckon the sight of that 
knife-handle sticking out of your boot-leg will 
keep 'em off better than all the sheriffs in the 
San Juan. By the way, I can find a second 
bowie for the other boot if you want it ! " 

" Not this moment, thank'ee. Then as I 
understand, you mean to let 'em take the 
Aurora, but you'll fight for the Last Chance 
and the cabin, our hearthstone, as it were?" 



no FACING THE NEW SITUATION, 



Yes, I don't see what else we can do. It 
would be difficult to defend both if we tried, 
and when they get possession of the Aurora 
I fancy they wont go to any great trouble or 
risk to wrest this from us. You see they 
believe it is the Aurora we are working and 
that there the riches lie. I don't believe 
they have a hint of the cross-cut or the real 
state of things, do you?" 

Not to judge by what I overheard yes- 
terday. But once they get possession of the 
Aurora entrance, wont they be able to find it 
all out in a few minutes, and seize on the 
cross-cut and the new work ? Our army is 
rather sma' to garrison the mine-chamber and 
the cabin too ; besides, how can we get in or 
out, if they hauld the entrance? I'm 'fraid, 
my friend, ye're biting off mair than your 
cheeks '11 hold." 

" Not at all. Come w^ith me and I'll show 
you how I mean to begin a flank move- 
ment on the enemy." 



PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 



Ill 



CHAPTER XI. 



PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 

Schemes looking toward the same object 
were at the same time busily advancing down 
at the camp. 

Len had made his way back as rapidly as 
possible, and fortunately met Morris just as 
he was riding away into the mountains to be 
gone over night. He explained to him the 
whole situation, excepting that interview at 
the Professor's, and at once enlisted his sym- 
pathy and interest. This w^as doubled when 
he heard that the real leader of the would-be 
jumpers was his antagonist in that El Dorado 
affair of which we have heard, whose over- 
throw would give him much satisfaction. He 
promised, therefore, that he would watch the 
three rascals sharply, and would certainly be 
on hand if they made any attempt to carry 
out their plans. 

113 



114 PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 



More'n that," he said, I shouldn't won- 
der if Buckeye Jim would be there too. 
That was all bosh, of course, that I told Bob 
about his being dead. I didn't suppose the 
old fool'd swallow it as slick as he did. All 
the boys know he's 'live and hearty, and he 
wrote me he was coming up here in a few days. 
If he's on hand I 'low there'll be some fun." 

I hope there wont be any fighting," said 
Len. 

** Oh, of course, we all hope that; we're all 
men of peace up here ! All the same, if we 
should happen to want to shoot at a mark on 
t'other dump, or something of that kind, for a 
little amusement, after supper, you know, 
why it would do any fellow proud that hap- 
pened to be over there, to kind o' lay low, 
don't you see, for fear of stray bullets, cause 
Jim and me shoots kind o' free when once we 
turn loose." 

And having delivered himself of this long 
and oracular speech, Morris shook hands and 
turned his broncho's head up hill. 



PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 



Len might now have gone home, but he 
thought it worth while, as another mail would 
come in soon, to wait for possible letters, or 
what were even more desirable, the news- 
papers and magazines that his far-away peo- 
ple at home sent with pleasant frequency. 
He was rewarded by a bundle of these, and 
one letter, addressed to Max. It bore the 
card of the Denver assayer to whom speci- 
mens of the ore from the interior of the 
Last Chance had been sent for analysis. 
Perhaps it might dash their hopes, and his 
hand trembled a little as he put it away in 
his pocket. Then he tied the newspapers in 
his rubber coat, flung it over his shoulder, 
and had turned his face homeward, when a 
thouo^ht struck him. 

Going back, he walked round the corner to 
the office of the Bull Pup mine, which had 
been bought, and was now operated, by a 
Mr. Anderson, the same eastern capitalist 
whose refusal to buy Old Bob's prospect had 
been the beginning of Max's adventures and 



ii6 



PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 



our history, Len's intention was to ask the 
agent whether Mr. Anderson was expected at 
the camp soon, and what was his present 
address. 

In response to these questions he learned 
that Mr. Anderson would arrive ten days 
hence, and that meanwhile he could be 
communicated with at Denver. 

I think, if you will let me sit down here a 
moment, I will write a letter to him," said 
Lennox. 

" Certainly," the agent replied, and gave 
him pen and paper. 

His letter was a short one. It merely 
recalled Max Brehm and himself to Mr. 
Anderson's recollection, stated that they had 
opened a prospect tunnel wherein they 
believed they had discovered good indica- 
tions of a new and valuable sort of gold ore 
in paying quantities, and begged him to come 
and see it as soon as he could, with a view of 
buying a part of it, or otherwise helping them 
to develop the mine. 



PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 



This done, Len lost no time in leaving town. 

Not a sign of either of the three blacklegs 
had he seen all day, and when on his way 
out he passed Old Bob's cabin, it was dark 
and silent. 

In fact these worthies were not in town, 
but early in the morning had gone up the 
creek with two pack-loads of tools, provisions, 
and so on, which they cached at Bob's old 
prospect-hole, the Cardinal, in order to have 
them convenient after they had jumped the 
Aurora and had driven B. B. & Co., dead or 
alive, out of the canon. 

A new moon was just holding its sickle 
over the notch in the mountains toward 
which the canon opened, when Len reached 
the cabin, where his tired partners were get- 
ting supper ; and he was glad to learn, a little 
later, that they approved his course in writing 
the letter to Mr. Anderson. 

Two days remained before the expected 
attack, and the firm agreed that out of these 
must be squeezed all possible advantage, by 



ii8 



PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 



double work. This was a time when, if their 
fortune was to be made, or even if the results 
already achieved were to be saved, every 
effort must be put forth. They had wit 
enough to see that whether the Last Chance 
held a fortune, or contained nothing, it would 
never do to relinquish it at this stage of trial. 

Men who were on the threshold of success 
have failed to attain it often because of the 
want of sagacity to understand, and of energy 
and self-sacrifice to work hard, at just such a 
crisis as this. The next man, seizing with a 
firm grip, and holding his chances at every 
risk until the opposition has vanished, finds 
a great reward. 

But in order that our friends might hold 
on to their property it was necessary to 
put it on a war footing. Their way of oper- 
ating the mine through the Aurora's tunnel 
must be abandoned, of course, unless they 
proposed to defend that, too, which they 
could not do, as they had no legal rights 
there. The plan proposed, then, was to en- 



PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 



119 



large the waterway through their own vein 
into a tunnel of serviceable size, and at the 
same time to turn the stream of water into 
the Aurora, and drain the whole of the remoter 
part of the mine out that way. 

They abandoned their arrangement of two- 
hour stints, and all worked together just as 
hard as they knew how. 

Going into the interior chamber of the 
mine, they first dug a drain through the 
cross-cut, and then, as fast as they tore 
down the rock in enlarging their own tunnel 
outward, it was heaped up in the cross-cut ; 
for they wished to block that up completely. 
By Friday night this barrier was almost 
built. 

All were stiff and sore when they arose 
at daybreak on Saturday morning, but each 
knew they could not afford to spare them- 
selves, and that this one day's hardship might 
be repaid tenfold. 

Before noon they tapped the main foun- 
tain, and brought its stream, v.^hich would 



I20 PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 



have measured a foot wide and a foot deep, 
into their new drain. 

When this great point had been gained, 
they felt that the worst was over, and by 
night they had finished barricading the cross- 
cut. They were obliged that evening, when 
their day's work was done, to w'orm their way 
out to daylight through the narrow, raggedy 
insecure, and still dripping waterway which 
threaded the Last Chance, but was by no 
means a tunnel in any proper sense of 
the word, nor a safe place for a man to 
work in. 

Lennox, who was of slighter build, and at 
the same time of more enthusiatic tempera- 
ment than his associates, was entirely used up 
when he reached daylight, and could only fall 
down and lie still. Fortunately for him, how- 
ever, Sandy and Max had strength enough 
left to cook supper. 

While they were eating supper, and before 
darkness had come, the three young miners 
were startled by a loud hallo, and on running 



PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 



to the door saw Morris sitting on horseback 
at the foot of the dump. 

''Can I ride up?" he called out. 

" No, leave your nag down there. I'll show 
you later how to get him around behind the 
cabin, where there is some pasture." 

So Morris drew the bridle reins over his 
horse's head and let them hang down from 
the bit, knowing that by this sign the horse 
would understand that he was to stay where 
he was until his rider returned. Then he 
scrambled up the rough side of the dump, say- 
ing, as he reached the top and shook hands 
with Max : 

" Well, you needn't worry over any jump- 
ers to-night." 

" Why," exclaimed Len. " What's up ? " 

" Oh, the regular thing with that crowd. 
The minute they got a little excited over a 
scheme, they had to go and drink a lot o' 
whisky on it, and there they are, sittin' round 
the El Dorado, stupid as ground-hogs. That 
is, two of 'em are ; that beauty they call 



122 PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 



Scotty was a-begging to fight all hands when 
I came away. I reckon somebody '11 accom- 
modate him before midnight." 

"An' did ye say he's called Scotty?" 
asked Sandy, appearing in the doorway of 
the cabin for the first time. 

Yes, — why, hello, stranger ! You know 
the El Dorado, when you see it, don't you ? 
How are you," extending his hand with great 
cordiality, ''put it thar ! I shouldn't won- 
der if we could pull a double team when it 
comes to layin' out that same gambler from 
over the range, eh ? " 

Weel, we hae done something o' the kind 
a'ready, Mr. Morris, an' I dare say he's no in 
love wi' eyther of us." 

''Not he. He'd like nothing better than 
to blow up the whole of us with giant pow- 
der. Now how are you fellows going to 
handle this crowd when they do try it on ? 
I thought if you didn't mind I'd stay and 
see the fun. Likely enough I could help 
you some. When my Winchester here 



PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 



turns loose people 'd better stand one 
side ! " 

So they explained to him how they had 
used the Aurora as a new means of entrance 
to their mine, the cutting of the cross-cut 
through the dyke, and the way they had 
closed this approach by turning all the water 
into the other tunnel and barricading the 
cross-cut. 

You see we had no right in the Aurora, 
and couldn't fairly fight for it. So we made 
up our minds to let 'em jump that and 
welcome." 

" But I have rights there — Jim and I own 
that together, and you've done enough work 
on it to keep up the assessment, so that it's 
ours, and nobody can jump it w^hile I'm 
around, unless they're a heap stronger 'n 
I am." 

They argued with Morris as to the useless* 
ness of this resolution. He admitted that 
the Aurora wasn't worth fighting over, but 
urged that it riled him to have it drop into 



124 



PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 



the clutches of such small potatoes as Old 
Bob and his pals. 

Finally, however, it was agreed that the 
question of defending the Aurora should 
be left until the attacking party appeared ; 
and, meanwhile, that they would devote them- 
selves to getting their own property into still 
better shape. 

That night, relieved of the strain of watch- 
ing, they had a long and refreshing sleep, con- 
tinued until far into the morning, for this 
was Sunday. 

The day of rest passed quietly. 

Early on Monday they were at work again, 
Morris helping. Two had picks and labored 
in the interior of the tunnel, enlarging the 
passage-way. A third shoveled the rock 
torn down into a wheelbarrow and carried it 
part way out, where the fourth gave him an 
empty wheelbarrow, took his full one, and 
dumped the debris at the mouth of the mine. 

By this arrangement somebody was outside 
nearly all the time and could watch against 



PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 125 



any surprise from the enemy, at the same 
time contributing his share of labor. 

All of Tuesday and Wednesday they were 
undisturbed, and made such good progress 
that by Wednesday evening a man could pass 
readily into the farthest part of the mine, 
the barricade protecting the cross-cut easily 
against any enemy who could get to it by way 
of the flooded Aurora. It was a great gain 
in another direction, too, for they were ex- 
pecting Mr. Anderson, and could now show 
him the whole length of the mine. 



THE ENEMY APPEARS. 



127 



CHAPTER XII. 



THE ENEMY APPEARS. 

On Wednesday afternoon Len stopped work 
a little earlier than the others, though it was 
quite dusk, and left the mine to get supper. 
Turning his gaze down the cafton, the mo- 
ment he came to the mouth of the tunnel, he 
saw three men on horseback riding up the 
trail nearly a mile away. It was merely by 
good chance that he happened to catch a 
glimpse of them, for h^d he been a moment 
later they would have been out of sight, not 
to reappear until the ford of the creek was 
reached, which was only a few yards beyond 
the foot of the Aurora dump. 

Dropping his shovel he ran back and 
reported, whereupon all hands hastened to 
the mouth of the tunnel, and lay down behind 

a rough sort of wall of loose rocks which had 

129 



I30 THE ENEMY APPEARS. 



been heaped up in front of the cabin in clear- 
ing the space around the door. 

Ten or fifteen minutes passed, and the twi- 
light was fast becoming dense in the canon, 
though on the mountain-tops a full blaze of 
light glowed strong and red, bringing out 
every glorious feature of the white-headed 
old peaks. 

Soon was heard the stumbling clatter, not 
loud, yet distinct enough, of horses' shodden 
feet on the stony path, and, as the riders 
came nearer, the faint sound of human voices. 
A moment after this the three figures came 
into view, riding cautiously through the ford, 
peering right and left, with guns in readiness, 
as though fearful of ambuscades. A few 
steps further took them out of sight behind 
the jutting headland of the Aurora dump. 

Then came sounds denoting that the 
jumpers had dismounted and were unsaddling. 
The clatter of the heavy wooden stirrups 
echoed along the rocky walls of the narrow 
gulch as the saddles were flung down. 



THE ENEMY APPEARS. 



After a short interval of silence, it became 
plain, by the rattle of rolling stones, that 
the invaders were charging up the dump. 
Instead of trying to steal to the top, they 
sprang up as fast as they could scramble. 

" It's evident," whispered Sandy, " that 
they're expectin' to catch us in that tunnel 
like a fox wi' his * earth ' stopped. But it's a 
puir fox that has na mair than one hole to 
his burrow ! " 

Sandy seemed to have hit it, for their 
first act, when Bob, Scotty and Stevens had 
reached the crest, and found no one there, 
was to rush to the door as though to shut it 
and fasten it. 

Imagine their chagrin when they saw that 
it was already closed, and that a great quan- 
tity of water was rushing out under the sill. 
They pointed one another to it, as though 
asserting that nobody could work in a tunnel 
which was as nearly flooded as that. Still, to 
make matters quite sure, they began to heap 
great rocks at the door and kept at it until no 



132 THE ENEMY APPEARS. 



three giants, much less our not over stalwart 
friends, could have forced it open. 

It was vastly amusing to the spectators to 
see these men, who were more distinguished 
for their laziness than for their energy, toil at 
the big stones, and when, having made sure 
they'd secured full possession of the place, 
they sat down and wiped their brows, Max 
and Len and Sandy suddenly rose up and 
wished them good-evening. 

" Thought you'd tree'd us in that hole, eh ?" 
Len sings out with a sneering laugh. " Not 
much ! We've been waiting for you fellows 
half the week. Why didn't you come up 
Saturday night as you promised ? " 

Astounded and angry, the three ruffians 
hurled back a lot of brag and bad language, 
the substance of which was that nobody dare 
come and take back the Aurora. 

They replied with a laugh, and went 
in with a parting shot in broad Scotch : 

It's the life o' an auld hat to be weel 
cockit." 



THE ENEMY APPEARS. 133 



Morris had already sneaked into the house 
and was slicing bacon for supper. 

I'll lay low for the present, I reckon," he 
said, 't wont do no harm, and it may be worth 
something to let those fellows think you're 
alone." 

A few moments later Sandy stepped out, 
and was amazed to find two of the adversaries 
stealing up the bank beside the cabin. 

His alarm brought Max and Len in a hurry, 
and when they found themselves discovered 
the roughs retreated in great haste and a 
cloud of wrathful phrases, while Max shouted : 
''Hereafter we shall be watching, and it wont 
be healthy for any man to set foot on this 
side of the gulch." 

''Those men mean business, for sure," Mor- 
ris asserted, and added this counsel : " We 
musn't show ourselves any morn we can 
help, and especially at night by the firelight. 
And it wouldn't be a bad idea to make a 
better breastwork when it gets so dark they 
can't see what we're doing." 



134 



THE ENEMY APPEARS. 



" We might hang blankets on the wall along 
that side of the cabin, so that no one could 
see to shoot through the chinks," Len sug- 
gested. 

" Yes, that's a good scheme, and somebody 
must be on watch night and day lest they play 
some trick on us. I don't think they'll shoot 
in the daytime, but I'll bet they '11 take the 
first chance at night they can get. I tell you, 
gentlemen, not only your mine, but your lives 
are at stake in this yere scrimmage, and it'll 
stand you in hand to take mighty good care 
of 'em." 

This was from Morris and was sober talk, 
but seemed to be no less than the truth, con- 
sidering the character of the desperadoes. 

Acting upon the suggestion, in his prompt, 
quiet way. Max remarked that he would take 
the first watch, and going to the door of the 
cabin which, it will be remembered, looked 
down the canon, and hence faced the Aurora, 
opened it and started to pass out. 

Before he could step across the threshold, a 



THE ENEMY APPEARS. 



135 



faint report rang out, not loud nor sharp, for 
the air was too thin to let much noise be 
made, and with an audible pmg a bullet 
splintered the log over the door. 

Max dropped so quickly his chums thought 
for an instant he must have been hurt, but he 
shouted Keep back ! Keep back ! " and 
at once began to wriggle forward under 
cover of the wall toward the brink of the 
dump. 

Dropping on hands and knees they followed 
him, and a few seconds later all four were 
lying behind the pile of stones, peering out 
into the gloom. 

Nothing could be seen, or even heard, for 
a time, but presently muttered talking was 
detected on the other hillock and our friends 
concluded that the shot did not mean an at- 
tack, but had been fired, sharpshooter fashion, 
when Max exposed himself in the brightly 
lighted doorway. The enemy's camp had 
evidently been made down behind the shelter 
of the dump, as was shown by the light re- 



136 THE ENEMY APPEARS, 



fleeted from the fire, but neither the blaze nor 
its kindlers were visible, so that the compli- 
ment of the shot could not have been returned 
had our boys felt so disposed. 

I make no doot they're watching us as 
shairp as we're peerin' at them," whispered 
Sandy ; and the sooner we improve our 
fortifications, the better." 

Max watched until midnight, then crept 
softly to where Morris was stretched upon the 
cabin floor and asked him to take his place; 
but nothing disturbed them, and the next 
morning two of the boys went to their work 
in the mine, leaving two outside on guard. 
These improved their time in strengthening 
the breastwork and in curtaining with blankets 
that wall of the cabin. In the afternoon they 
exchanged places with the men in the tunnel. 

The jumpers were seen about the Aurora, 
but nothing was said to them. They broke 
down the mine door, and penetrated the tun- 
nel a short distance, but soon returned, dis- 
couraged by the wetness within. 



THE ENEMY APPEARS. 



137 



The night passed quietly and Friday morn- 
ing went by without any incident. About 
the middle of the afternoon, while Len and 
Sandy were outside, Old Bob and Scotty 
came to the edge of the Aurora dump, and 
held aloft a pole with a handkerchief, sup- 
posed to be white, tied upon it, which they 
waved toward the cabin. 

" What do you mean by that?" Len sung 
out, for he and Sandy happened to be on duty 
as sentinels. 

"Flago' truce," Bob yelled back. ''One 
o* you fellers come down in the hollow and 
meet me. I want to talk. Leave yer gun 
behind. I aint got no arms, you see. Will 
you come ? " 

" I reckon. Hold on, I'll see my partner !" 

Len lighted a little lamp and disappeared 
into the mine, whence he returned in five 
minutes. Max and Morris came as far as the 
door, but did not show themselves. 

" All right," Len called out, as he blew out 
his lamp and climbed over the breastwork. 



138 THE ENEMY APPEARS. 



" Come down in the hollow if you want to 
talk." 

Old Bob moved clumsily down from the 
Aurora to meet him, while Sandy perched 
himself on the wall and Bob's friends stood 
behind him on their own knoll. 



A FLAG OF TRUCE. 



•39 



CHAPTER XIII. 



A FLAG OF TRUCE. 

The younger man reached the bottom the 
sooner, and sitting down began to shy peb- 
bles at a bowlder a few yards below, to see 
how far they would glance. 

Bob came lumbering down the slope of 
loose stones, took a seat pretty near Len, and 
slowly drawing his knife from his pocket, 
opened it with great deliberation and began 
to whittle at a bit of spruce bark. 

Nothing was said for some time, and 
neither took any notice of the other. Each 
was waiting for his opponent to begin. At 
last the eager disposition of the young Vir- 
ginian, who never could bear to waste time in 
going about whatever he had to do, and who 
in consequence had often exemplified the 
maxim more haste less speed," overcame 
his reserve and broke the silence. 

141 



142 



A FLAG OF TRUCE. 



** Well, Bob," he began in a careless man- 
ner, " I never expected to see you in as mean 
a scrape as this." 

If our embassador had studied over it for a 
week, he could not have made a remark 
which would better serve his purpose. Bob 
had long deemed himself a very wily old dog 
indeed. He had boasted of this to his asso- 
ciates more than once, and had assured them 
that they would see how, on this occasion, he 
would argify and bamboozle that young cub 
of a Bushwick" until, figuratively speaking, he 
had tied him all up in a bundle and laid him 
away on a shelf in safe storage. 

But Len's cool remark, driving straight 
home to the very heart and spirit of all his 
pretensions, let the wind out of Old Bob's 
behavior and arguments together. It angered 
him in an instant, and when a diplomat gets 
angry he loses his power. Instead of the 
soft words and sly reasoning by which he had 
hoped to fool his antagonist into opening his 
doors to the treachery which it was intended 



A FLAG OF TRUCE. 



143 



should follow ; instead of the pretty speeches 
which Bob had carefully thought out and 
talked over, came furious retorts, bad lan- 
guage, and threats, to which Len listened with 
the utmost composure. 

The substance of it all was, that Bob and 
his precious accomplices had jumped the 
mine, and yet they hadn't jumped it, rightly 
speaking, because they had as much right 
there as anybody. The claim had been 
abandoned, and if anybody had gone to work 
at it why that was at their own risk, and they 
mustn't complain when another man came 
along and took it away from the first party. 

Now I've got this yere 'Rora mine," 
Bob shouted excitedly, " and I'm goin' to keep 
it, don't you forget that ! An' w^ot's more, 
my friend Mr. Stevens is agoin' to jump 
that claim you're holdin' now, 'n' that cabin. 
That cabin belonged to my friend Pickens, 
'n' he told me, before he went away, that 
if I wanted it I could have it, and I can 
prove it." 



144 



A FLAG OF TRUCE. 



Now," Bob kept on, " you young roos- 
ters 'd better give up and crawl out. We'll 
give you a chance to get away and take your 
blankets and things if you'll quit peaceable- 
like and git out. We don't want no trouble, 
nor nobody hurted." 

Then why did you put a ball into our 
doorpost?" interrupted his listener. 

Scotty did that. I told him 't wa'n't on the 
squar, an' 'twas kinder haxidental anyhow. 
If you'll quit shootin' at us we wont shoot at 
you, — an' / wouldn't nohow." 
" We haven't fired a shot." 
•'You're jist ready to all the time," Bob 
persisted, " so 's we gentlemen can't work our 
property for fear of you." 

"You 'gentlemen'! Your 'property'!" 
repeated Lennox, with infinite scorn. 

" Yes, ours. And, as I was sayin', we'll go 
to town and get help, if we arn't enough 
alone, and we'll bounce you out o' that cabin 
which we want for ourselves, and you may 
thank your stars if you get out with whole 



A FLAG OF TRUCE. 



skins. The hull filin' of ye must pack up and 
scoot 'fore sundown." 

That's rather sudden," Len pleaded ; 
" can't you give us till to-morrow morning ? 
It looks like it was going to rain to-night." 

" Well, we don't want to be rough on 
young chaps like you, though you're too 
cheeky for these parts," Bob conceded, think- 
ing he had frightened the lad ; and we wont 
crowd ye to-night. But, by this, that and the 
other ! if you don't skip out early to-morrow 
you'll hear from us, you bet ! " 

All right ! " Len rejoined. " I'll tell the 
boys. I'm glad you gave us till to-morrow to 
get out, for it looks mighty like a storm to- 
night." 

It required only a very brief report from 
Lennox to acquaint the firm with what Bob 
had threatened, and, no doubt, would try to 
carry out. 

They have no suspicion," Len asserted, 
**that Morris is with us, and it will be a good 
thing if we can continue to keep it secret." 



146 



A FLAG OF TRUCE. 



" They'll find it out mighty sudden and 
pointed-like," muttered Morris, " if they don't 
play cautious." 

There was a pause for a moment or two, 
until Len remarked that he supposed some- 
thing should be said, or the enemy would 
think they intended to act upon Bob's bluster 
and abandon the claim, " which, of course, 
nobody thinks of doing for an instant." 

" I understand it's ours, fair and square," 
said Sandy, " and sin' possession's nine points 
of the law, we might as well haud on for the 
other point. I remember that my grand- 
feyther used to say to us bairns, — ' better to 
keep the deil wi'oot the door, than drive him 
oot o* the hoose.' I'm thinking, though, I'd 
like to take that gambler-man by the nape of 
his neck and gie him the name of an auld 
Scotch dance down the bank, — I mean the 
Highland fling, ye ken?" 

Max did not join in the laugh ; in his 
despondent way, he was filled with hesitation 
which none of the others felt. Had he been 



A FLAG OF TRUCE. 



147 



quite alone, I'm not sure how much he might 
have wavered, postponed, and yielded ; but 
while all were waiting for him to say some- 
thing, a shout came across from the other 
dump : 

What're you fellers a-goin' to do ?" 

Len was roused. The indignation he had 
repressed hitherto now came to the surface. 

" I'll show those miserable sneaks that they 
can't bluff me!''' he exclaimed; and spring- 
ing upon a heap of stones, he yelled back : 

"You know you lied about your right to 
this mine. We bought it and we're going to 
keep it. If you want it you've got to take it, 
and you'd better look right sharp after your 
own stake. This is 'what we're a-goin' to do ! ' " 

" Well," said Max, as the excited lad leaped 
down out of rifle-range, " you've declared war 
for certain, and I imagine we'll have to fight 
it out on this line if it takes all — " 

"Don't say * summer'; there's snow and 
frost enough in this wind to furnish a Vir- 
ginia January.'* 



148 



A FLAG OF TRUCE. 



Well — all Winter, then. But they wont 
try it on — they know better." 

Evidently Max's indecisions were over. 
No," Morris agreed, " I don't think 
they'll attack by themselves, but they can 
make about as much trouble for you by 
simply staying there." 

''Besides," Sandy put in, " one of 'em '11 
start to town as soon as it comes dark, and na 
doot can find plenty o' their own kind, who 
wad like na better sport than to join in a 
scheme o' this nature." 

" I can put a stop to that," said Morris. 

"How?" 

" Nobody '11 try to get away till night, and 
by that time I'll be down there to stop him, 
whoever he is, and send him back again with 
a flea in his ear." 

" How will you get down the canon without 
their spotting you ? " 

" I'll climb up the cliff and work my way 
down about a quarter of a mile away. I 
know a spot that'll suit me to a T. I wish 



A FLAG OF TRUCE. 



149 



Buckeye Jim was here, we'd make a break for 
those jumpers and clean out the whole nest 
in no time. He'd oucrht to a' been here 
before this. Mebbe he's in town now — 
there's no telling." 

Likely enough Mr. Anderson is there 
by this time, too," said Len. 

" Why, would it not be a good plan, borrow- 
ing a hint from the adversary, for one of us 
to go to town and be ready to hasten these 
gentlemen, or perhaps get assistance other- 
wise ? " 

It was Sandy who made this suggestion, to 
which, at first, there was only silent attention. 

" I'm thinkin' that the three of us left can 
stand off, as ye say, those fellows yonder, and 
if we can manage to hold 'em all in, our 
agent would come back with an overwhelm- 
ing force and put 'em wholly to rout." 

" I guess you're right, Sandy — but who 
shall go?" 

Weel, I'm vera willing to do that, or any- 
thing as ye weel ken, but Tm so much of a 



A FLAG OF TRUCE, 



stranger in town, that probably I could be of 
more use here." 

**I reckon I'm your man," said Len. "Max 
and Morris are both too heavy weights to be 
spared from the garrison, while I can do as 
well on this errand as any one else, I 
suppose." 

" It's no fun for you to walk all the way 
down that mountain trail, with the weather 
so threatening, but undoubtedly you might 
gain a great deal for us," Max interposed. 

"If he didn't get any more men to come 
up," Morris suggested, " he might be able to 
stop the other crowd's getting any recruits." 

"Yes, that's so. When shall I start?" 

" The sooner the better," said Max and 
Sandy in the same breath. 

" Meaning after dark this evening," added 
Morris. "You go along down with me, and 
mebbe I'll show you a bit of fun to cheer you 
up. It'll be early moonlight ; you wont have 
a bad tramp." 



SOME 

DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 



CHAPTER XIV. 



SOME DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 

This settled, Max and Sandy returned to 
their mining, while Len and Morris lay down 
behind the newly-strengthened breastwork. 
The elder man filled his pipe and stretched 
himself in the sunshine, while Len brought 
out one of the few books they had and read 
the stirring story of the robber Doones, and 
the giant farmer who got his sweetheart from 
among them by such a pleasant mixture of 
strategy and strength. 

Morris was interested, but his position was 
easy, the pipe was soothing, the sun was 
warm, and Len's steady tones were slumber- 
ous in their influence. The reader, there- 
fore, presently found his listener asleep, in 
spite of his interest and his resolution. See- 
ing this he shut the book, and fell into a 

153 



154 DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 



reverie over the stranoe series of circum- 
stances that had brouorht him to this remote 
spot and outlandish surroundings, how — 
Crack — ping ! 

Morris vi^as wide-awake. Len's dreams 
had vanished. Both men were on their 
knees behind the breastwork, guns in hand 
and every sense alert. 

On the opposite dump they saw all three 
of the jumpers sitting with guns by their 
sides. They were gesticulating toward the 
smooth, whitish panel on the cliff walk which 
showed where the dyke had been cut through 
by the ice and floods that in ages past had 
carved this channel in the mountain side ; 
they seemed to be paying no attention to the 
Last Chance people, but were pointing as 
though at a target, on the face of the cliff. 
After a short time Scotty raised his rifle and 
took steady aim, apparently at the target 
previously pointed out. The report of his 
gun was followed by the sharp click of the 
ball against the porphyry wall, and then by 



DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 155 



its rattling among the rock on the slope of 
the dump in front of our sentinel friends. 

What do you suppose they're shooting 
at?" muttered Len, straining his eyes to find 
some mark. 

Morris did not reply. He was watching 
the enemy going through another pantomime, 
which looked as though Bob was explaining 
something wrong in the shot. This was 
speedily concluded by Scottys moving his 
position and aiming a third time at the face of 
the cliff, sighting at a little different angle 
than before. 

Crack ! — ping ! went the report, and almost 
at the same instant a spruce log which lay 
just in front of Morris's face jarred under the 
blow of a half-ounce of lead, which sank deep- 
ly into its tough core. 

" Great Harry ! " shouted the incensed 
miner, ''They're caroming on us !" 

And before Len could interfere, Morris rose 
on one knee, brought his rifle to bear on the 
gambler, and pulled the trigger. 



156 DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 



Scotty's hat flew off, and he tumbled over, 
while Bob and Stephens let loose a volley, 
which rattled harmlessly against the breast- 
work. 

But Morris's snap shot had not gone quite 
true, for Scotty picked himself up almost in- 
stantly and scrambled out of range, followed 
by his two companions. 

This firing had brought Sandy and Max to 
the door of the mine with anxious faces, and 
you may believe they were not only enraged, 
but made very solicitous by the incident. 

"It's clear," remarked Max, "that they 
mean to kill us if they can do so without open- 
handed murder. Of course they intended 
those balls to glance and hurt somebody." 

" I meant mine to, anyhow ! " exclaimed 
Morris. 

** I am glad you fired ; it'll teach those 
scoundrels that we are wide-awake. But do 
you not think they knew you ! " 

" No, they couldn't see well enough. I was 
kneeling behind the wall." 



DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 157 



*' There is a' the mair necessity, Mr. Bush- 
wick," remarked Sandy, why you should go 
to town to-night." 

" I feel it strongly, and Morris and I'll get 
away as soon as it is dark. You fellows have 
worked enough to-day, haven't you ? Sup- 
pose you stay out now." 

All right ; we will. We've got a fair sort 
of a hole in there, anyhow. It's pretty deep, 
and a man can walk upright all the way except 
in one or two places." 

They saw no more of the enemy that day, 
however, and Sandy occupied himself by cook- 
ing an extra good supper. 

By seven o'clock that evening a deep 
gloom filled the gulch, and was scarcely less 
heavy on the cliffs, for thick clouds stretched 
like a canopy from peak to peak. 

The only means by which the jumpers 
could get away from their camp was by the 
trail down the canon, along which, during day- 
light, any one would be exposed for some dis- 
tance to the fire of our friends in the garrison. 



158 DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 



From the Last Chance, however, a man 
might easily ascend, as we know, and then, by 
care and trouble, he could pass along ledges 
above the Aurora, to where, some distance 
beyond, a crevice enabled him to clamber 
down to the bottom of the gulch, a few hun- 
dred yards below where the trail crossed the 
creek. 

This is what Morris and Len did, as soon 
as the shadows of the range enveloped them 
in its curtaining gloom. When they had made 
their way far enough, they crept to the edge 
of the cliff, and could see the jumpers eating 
their supper around their fire on the safe side 
of the dump. A horse was hitched near by, 
and Old Bob was saddling him. 

You are right," Lennox whispered. 

He's going to town to-night, and is most 
ready to start. We'd better hurry up, if you 
want to get into ambush ahead of him." 

Moving as quietly as possible, they hast- 
ened to where the shelving of the cliff let 
them get down to the bed of the creek. 



A SHORT CUT. 

Silver Caves, Page 159. 



DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 159 



Just as they reached this point, where they 
most needed the light to aid them, a fierce 
squall swept down upon the groaning and 
cracking branches of the spruce fringing the 
border of the crags, the air became suddenly 
colder, and whirling volleys of snowflakes 
were dashed in the faces of the wanderers. 

This is bad!" growled Morris. "'Taint 
none too easy a job to crawl down here in 
daylight, let alone trying to do it in this 
pitch ; look out ! " 

Len had slipped on a wet stone and started 
to make the descent by an extremely short 
cut, but caught hold of a young tree stem just 
in time to stop himself. Warned by this, 
they felt their way with more caution, and 
finally succeeded in clambering down to the 
creek-bed without serious mishap. On reach- 
ing the trail the coating of snow was found 
undisturbed, showing that as yet no one had 
passed over it. 

A few rods below, the path was crowded 
into a narrow passage between a steep bank 



i6o DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 



and the water. This place Morris thought 
would suit his purpose capitally, and here he 
proposed to meet the unsuspecting enemy and 
turn him back. 

His first movement was to cut and care- 
fully trim a stout cudgel. 

" Quakin-asp is the kind of a stick to 
make his bones ache," said Morris, as he 
trimmed away the twigs. 

" I've no doubt of it, and I'd like to stay 
and see the fun, but I reckon I'd better mosey 
if I'm to get to town before this snow buries 
me." 

" You bet you had ! " was the earnest 
advice of his roughly-speaking but good- 
hearted comrade. " Its no soft job you've got 
on hand, and you want to be mighty careful. 
Got a thick overcoat ? " 
- Yes." 
Any matches ? " 
Yes, lots of 'em." 
Got your pistol ? " 
" Yes, borrowed Max's. Thought I might 



DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. i6i 



meet wolves. I've heard 'em howl down here 
once or twice." 

They're 'round on snowy nights, but 
they're cowardly. Any whisky ? " 

•* No ; and I don't want any." 

" Hm ! I'm not so sure about it. Whisky's 
always good, I'm thinkin', especially on a cold 
niq^ht like this." 

You and Old Bob could ao^ree on one 
point, at any rate." 

'* Me and Squint-eyes agree 1 — not much ! 
Still, — w^hisky's good." 

Well, I'll wager you a jug o' molasses, 
or a new hat, that I can get to town better to- 
night without whisky than with it." 

" Mebbe you're right. I know whisky's 
done me a heap more harm 'n it ever did me 
good, or any other fellow I ever heard of. 
Still, whisky's good ! " 

Len laughed at this defiance of rhyme and 
reason, and shaking hands, started away, Mor- 
ris calling out as a last word that if he lost 
the trail in the snow, or got bewildered, the 



i62 DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 



only proper thing to do was to build a fire 
and camp right there," instead of working 
into worse difficulties. 

The brief gale with which the storm had 
leaped down from its headquarters in the 
heights of the Sierra had wholly subsided 
now, or only reappeared in occasional momen- 
tary squalls. The snow continued falling 
steadily, nevertheless, and already the 
ground, tops of the bushes, and all the pro- 
truding rocks were white. The stars of 
course were blotted out, but there was 
a pale, unearthly luminosity in the air which 
showed that somewhere the moon was 
shining. 

How splendid a sight it would be," 
thought the plucky young traveler as he 
pushed steadily on, to be above this storm, 
and able to look down upon the wide sea of 
heaving, billowy snow-clouds, a sea of wan, 
soft vapor, gleaming in the moonlight here 
and there as rounded masses are rolled up- 
ward, and showing shadowy hollows or 



DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE, 163 



curving wrinkles, coming and going, forming 
and changing before one's eyes." 

Len had no great difficulty in keeping upon 
the trail, though he often felt himself in very 
delicate places where a wrong step might 
mean a bad fall, if not death. 

In the wooded district lying between the 
Panther Creek gorge and the village side of 
the mountain, he got bewildered once or 
twice, but by keeping his wits about him 
passed safely beyond the forest, and felt 
thereafter in no great danger of going astray. 
Yet he was not prepared for the way the 
storm had quickly disguised all the land- 
marks, so that he found the trail unexpect- 
edly hard to follow. 

This latter half of the journey was the 
strangest part of all. Now that he had got 
out of the gorge and past the woods upon 
the ridge, he could see abroad for the most 
part ; but the whole wide and beautiful land- 
scape with which he had grown familiar was 
so lost and transformed that it was hard to 



i64 DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 



recoornize its most familiar features. Where 
in the summer daylight, of that wonderfully 
crystal-clear daylight of the alpine air, he had 
been confronted by bold bluffs and clearly 
cut, prominent peaks, only the vaguest out- 
lines of a few of the nearest headlands now 
appeared. Everything else was hidden under 
a veil of snowflakes. To his left, as he 
reached the opening, half-way down, which 
allowed the broadest view, a misty expanse 
took the place of a well-known rank of tower- 
ing peaks ; in front, an undefined, Titanic 
shadow against the sky showed dimly the wall 
of guardian cliffs enclosing the valley ; while 
at the right, clusters of rugged and spruce- 
grown foot-hills were merged and invisible 
under the graceful arch of a mighty dome, 
faintly outlined in the tumult of the storm, 
which was wrapping its mantle so swiftly 
round every mountain. 

In spite of his haste, and of the cold wind 
which hurled the powdered snow against his 
face and drove it into the crevices of his 



DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 165 



clothing, Lennox stood still here to gaze upon 
this shadowy picture of a new world, this 
ghostly Walpurgis Night, which formed the 
most impressive scene he had ever beheld. 
And as he gazed, there came faintly to his 
ear, from far up the mountain behind him, a 
long, shrill scream as of some one in deadly 
distress. 

Len knew it was the cry of the mountain 
lion, but in that palely-lighted dance of the 
snow-spirits among these awful rocks, it might 
well have been taken for the last cry of some 
forlorn and freezing witch. 

Shaking off these fancies and the snow 
together, our hero turned his steps down- 
ward, and an hour later aroused the aston- 
ished landlord and w^ent to bed at the hotel, 
thoroughly tired, but safe and far ahead of 
his adversaries. 



OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING. 



ti7 



CHAPTER XV. 



OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING. 

Morris had not to wait more than fifteen 
minutes after Len's departure before he found 
his work at hand. The snow so softened the 
trail that the sound of the horse's hoofs were 
not heard until they had approached within a 
few feet of the ambush, and amid the blinding 
flakes, it was impossible to recognize the face 
of the well-muffled rider. 

It was certainly Old Bob, however, who had 
been seen saddling the horse, and Morris con- 
cluded that the man before him was he. Had 
it been Scotty, he might have hardened his 
heart to almost any degree of severity, but 
heretofore he had had no quarrel with Bob, 
for whom he felt contempt chiefly, and he 
intended to let him off as easily as it would 
be safe to do. 

i6q 



170 OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING, 



Rousing himself at the sound of the stumb- 
ling nag, Morris had but half a minute to pause, 
before suddenly springing in front of the 
horse, with a blow at the animal's head and a 
yell like a wild Shoshone. 

The startled and punished animal reared, 
spun round in the narrow trail as nimbly as a 
deer could have done, slipped on the wet 
stones, and fell headlong over the low bank at 
the edge of the trail, flinging his astounded 
rider over his head into the creek. 

Morris, delighted at the effect of his first 
charge, followed it up with a second whoop, 
hearing which the horse picked himself up and 
rushed up the trial at break-neck speed, fright- 
ened out of its senses. 

Old Bob, panic-stricken, dumb-founded, and 
shocked by his fall, was just rising from the 
shallow water, when Morris got down the 
bank. Leaping upon him, he seized the 
wretched victim by collar, and shook him by 
both hands as a terrier does a rat. Then 
snatching up his stick he began to lay it vigor- 



OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING. 171 



ously over Bob's shoulders, keeping at it 
uPxtil the old fellow could find enough of his 
scattered wits and tangled legs to enable him 
to run away. 

Get back in your hole, you old sarpint ! " 
Morris yelled, as he flung his cudgel after the 
retreating enemy. '* Next time you thieves 
want to sneak off to town, mind you get per- 
mission of your betters ! " 

To this Bob replied, as was expected, by a 
couple of shots from his revolver, which, up to 
this time, he had fairly forgotten in the sur- 
prise of the unexpected attack, but Morris 
dodged behind a rock at the first flash, and 
no harm was done. 

He did not return this random fire, but kept 
wide-awake for a few minutes, thinking Bob 
might come back with his companions. This, 
however, he did not do, and Morris lost no 
further time in starting home. 

Bob admitted afterward, that he thought 
that at least two men had attacked him, which 
spoke well for Morris's activity, and that it 



172 OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING. 



was Max who was giving him the shaking. 
Wet, sore, chilled and altogether dazed, he 
was in no condition to lead an attack against 
an ambushed enemy in the middle of a snowy 
night, nor were his accomplices eager to go 
and avenge his wrongs, preferring, so long as 
their own precious skins remained whole, to 
stay where they were and scold at him for his 
failure. 

All this happened on Friday night, and to 
that fact the superstitious miner attributed 
his misfortunes. 

The storm ceased before daybreak. Then 
what a strange, new, glorious landscape was 
that the sun rose upon ! Its beams streamed 
athwart limitless spaces of snow. Overhead, 
the height Sandy had partly ascended rose in 
rounded outlines, a huge dome of unblemished 
white. Ahead, as if a mighty drift had been 
heaped across the gap between the mountains, 
lay the saddle over which the trail led through 
the woods ; and inside the gorge all the 
roughnesses were smoothed, all the bowlders 



OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING. 173 



and prostrate logs, the boughs of the spruces 
and cottonwoods, bushes, ferns, and weeds, 
were packed full and weighed down with the 
soft and flurrv flakes. 

Beyond calling for a little shoveling inside 
the fort, the snow was no hindrance, of 
course, to the underground work of the firm 
of B. B. & Co. They hammered away at 
improving their tunnel all day on Saturday 
and until late at night, and followed it by 
a pleasant Sunday's rest, in spite of their 
cramped quarters and tedious guard-duty. 

The case was far different with the unfor- 
tunate jumpers, who, at the Aurora, had no 
shelter, and no way of getting free from the 
snow and the wet. 

This misfortune was doubled by a thaw on 
Sunday afternoon, suddenly letting loose a 
great flood of melted snow, and turning the 
creek into a torrent, which, before Monday 
morning, had so swollen as to cover the trail 
and ford with a rushing flood six or eight feet 
deep, that it would have been madness to cross. 



174 OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING. 



Old Bob and his companions, therefore, 
were not only very uncomfortable, but 
between the impassable creek and the unscal- 
able wall on one side, and the rifles of our 
friends on the other, they were really 
prisoners. 

I reckon they're getting hungry over yon- 
der, too," remarked Morris, when a heavy 
rain on Monday night had produced a second 
flood in the creek. " I don't believe they 
have grub enough to last much longer. They 
couldn't have brought a great deal with 'em, 
and it must be about used up." 

That was the fact of the case. Rations 
were growing very short in the enemy's camp, 
and if the end had not come pretty soon they 
would have been obliged to surrender, since 
it was impossible to get to where their provis- 
ions had been cached with such great labor 
preparatory to this campaign. 

Even to our friends, who had no such mis- 
eries to fret them, the situation was becom- 
ing extremely monotonous and annoying. 



OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING. 175 



Max was glum and anxious. Sandy had lost 
his humor. Morris would growl softly at him- 
self first for letting Old Bob get away with a 
single unbroken bone, and then for having 
allowed that kid, as he called Len, to go on 
alone to town in the storm. It was tedious 
enough to be shut up in this cabin, in the 
midst of such miserable weather, and in 
hourly danger of a bullet in one's brain, but 
when to that was added the worry over Len's 
safety, the suspense became nearly unen- 
durable. 



THE FIGHT AT THE FORD. 



I''7 



CHAPTER XVI. 



THE FIGHT AT THE FORD. 

** I TELL you what it is ! " exclaimed Morris, 
as Wednesday morning brought no tidings, 
and the clouds began to break away, ** if that 
kid, or somebody else, don't show up to-day, 
I'm going to look him up. I oughtn't to 'a' 
been such a dod rotted fool as to let him go 
nohow." 

No one opposed an objection ; in fact it 
would have done no good if they had, since 
Morris was his own master, while at the same 
time, every one hoped he would be saved the 
journey. 

The two went to work after breakfast, as 
usual, in the tunnel, and rejoined Sandy, who 
had combined sentinel with kitchen duty, to 
eat a famous dinner about one o'clock. The 
sun had been out an hour or two, and the 

179 



i8o THE FIGHT AT THE FORD. 



creek had fallen so rapidly, that Max thought 
it might now be crossed at a pinch. 

'* Heard anything from our neighbors this 
morning?" the guard was asked. 

Not a word. I was a leetle suspeecious 
in consequence, and kept my een peeled 
as ye say out here, but I kenned naething 
wrong." 

They're up to some trick or other, you 
can bet your boots," was the opinion of Mor- 
ris, who followed his words by going out and 
peering through crevices in the barricade at 
the enemy's fortifications. 

He had no more than got there, when they 
heard him yell out in angry astonishment, 
and when they hurried out of the cabin were 
amazed to see him standing on top of the 
wall, rifle in hand, like a picture of Sergeant 
Jasper at New Orleans. 

" Look there, will you ?" he shouted, point- 
ing down the cafton. 

The place where the trail was visible from 
the cabin was a stretcli of about forty yards, 



THE FIGHT AT THE FORD, i8i 



so situated between the cliff and the creek, 
that any one going up or down could not 
escape coming under rifle range from the fort. 
At its further end was the ford of the creek, 
which with the rise of the opposite bank 
could also be seen, a protruding bastion of 
rock cutting off all further view of the trail 
for a mile or more. 

At the instant Morris had glanced through 
the crevice in the wall, he had seen his old 
enemy Scotty riding his horse at the top of 
its speed toward the creek, into which he was 
about to plunge, when he suddenly reined up, 
and seizing his rifle from the leathern sling, 
which held it balanced on the horn of his 
saddle, lifted it toward his shoulder. His 
horse, however, alarmed at the rapid motion, 
gave a shying jump, which nearly dislodged 
the man from the saddle, and the gun went 
off before any aim had been taken. 

It was at this juncture that Morris had 
leaped upon the wall, and Sandy and Max had 
followed. Before they had time to speculate 



l82 



THE FIGHT AT THE FORD. 



upon the matter, there rushed into view down 
the opposite bank of the creek the stalwart, 
buckskin-clothed form of Buckeye Jim, level- 
in or a revolver at the disconcerted horseman, 
who with quick presence of mind threw his 
hands above his head in sigfn of surrender 
and so saved his life, — "a great peety ! " in 
Sandy s opinion. 

Close behind Jim was to be seen Lennox 
with a stranger whom nobody at first recon- 
ized ; and a moment later Mr. Anderson rode 
into view, driving slowly ahead of him the 
horses of the other three. 

Jim still kept Scotty under his eye, while 
the others mounted and waded the stream, 
The stranger approached Scotty and took his 
rifle away from him, while Len seized the 
bridle of his horse. Then the hands came 
down and were placed behind his back, where 
they remained as though fastened, after which 
the cavalcade started up the trail toward the 
mines. 

Scotty's been handcuffed," Morris ex- 



THE FIGHT AT THE FORD. 



plained, when he saw these movements. I 
can tell by the way he rides." 

Suddenly Max exclaimed, " They're run- 
ning- right against the others' guns," and 
leaping over the wall he hurried, revolver in 
hand, straight toward the Aurora's dump. 

Divining his intention, the others followed 
him, stumbling over the slushy and rolling 
stones in hot haste, and rushed up the face of 
the enemy's embankment like a storming 
party. They had almost as far to go as the 
others, and must make haste, breath or no 
breath. It was well they did so, for the first 
thing that met their eyes when they had 
reached the top of the dump, was Old Bob 
and Stevens lying behind two logs, guns in 
hand, ready to shoot the instant the approach- 
ing party should get clear of the last thicket. 

Waiting for no orders or permission, Mor- 
ris drew bead on the nearest man and fired, 
and with an awful cry Stevens sprang to his 
feet and fell back a senseless heap on the 
ground. 



THE FIGHT A T THE FORD. 



Bob, thunder-struck, whirled round to find 
the three men above him and all hope gone. 
Dropping on his knees in abject terror, and 
green with fright, the miserable poltroon 
shrieked for mercy, and he received the boon 
with the contempt of his foes not only, but of 
his friends, for the captured Scotty at once 
began pouring upon his head the most bitter 
revilings. 

Except to take away his gun and give him 
a kick, nobody else paid any attention to him, 
for all were hurrying to congratulate Lennox 
upon his safe return, to welcome Mr. Ander- 
son, to be introduced to Buckeye Jim and the 
stranger, who proved to be a Deputy Sheriff 
from Denver with a warrant for Scotty's 
arrest, and to clap each other on the back 
over the fortunate escapes and successes 
which had marked the last five minutes with 
so much excitement. 

Until this hand-shaking had been gone 
through with, no one thought of the wounded 
man. The time had not been long, however, 



THE FIGHT A T THE FORD. 



185 



and at first it was more needful to make sure 
of the living than to attend to the dead. 

But was he dead ? 
Na," replied Sandy, who was the first to 
kneel by his side and place a hand within 
his shirt-bosom to feel if any life remained. 
" His hairt beats." 

"Glad to hear he's got one ; where is he 
wounded?" asked Morris, also kneeling by 
his side. Oh, here," pointing to where the 
blood was slowly dripping from the left arm 
of the prostrate and unconscious man. 

"We maun cut away his sleeve," com- 
manded Sandy, who seemed to know pre- 
cisely what to do, " or he may bleed to 
death." 

To slit up the sleeves of the coat and 
woolen shirt was the work of only half a 
moment, and the pain caused by the chill air 
striking the lacerated flesh, brought back con- 
sciousness in short order. 

Glancing around the circle of strange 
faces, catching sight of the handcuffed Scotty 



1 86 THE FIGHT AT THE FORD. 



and mournful Bob, and feeling the numb pain 
in his naked arm, which Sandy was washing, 
the poor fellow turned aside his face, closed 
his eyes, and muttered in complete disgust : 

** Why in thunder didn't ye let me die ? " 
There's naething but mends for mis- 
deeds," was Sandy's sententious rejoinder, as 
he cleansed the wound of blood, picked the 
shreds of cloth out of it, and lifted the arm 
to examine its extent. 

The ball ha' passed quite through the 
muscles," he announced, ''and entered the 
man's side. I'm not so sure, my fair body, 
that it was worth while to bring you to." 

" Eh ! What's that ? you don't mean to 
say — ? " 

''Keep cool!" commanded Sandy sternly 
" D'ye want to bleed to death, ye fool, before 
we can bind ye up ? Keep quiet!" 

Dipping a handkerchief in cold water he 
bound it tightly round the perforated arm, a 
proceeding which set Stevens groaning piti- 
fully. 



THE FIGHT AT THE FORD. 



187 



" Now let's see what else," he said ; and 
began to search the chest of his patient for 
marks of harm. 

The hole in the outside of the coat made 
by the bullet was plain enough, but no blood 
was visible on the vest or shirt. Opening his 
coat Sandy found the bullet-hole just over a 
pocket ; and as he moved the garment farther, 
out tumbled a thick slab of tobacco holding a 
flattened bullet, which had not been able to 
force its way through. There was a black 
bruise on the skin, but to this ignoble agent 
the wicked man owed his life. 

Thank God ! " he ejaculated, when it was 
shown him. No one echoed the words more 
fervently then Morris, for though he could 
have acquitted his conscience, had his bullet, in 
defence of his friends against reckless ruffians, 
proved the death of one of them, yet he was 
heartily relieved to know that his hand had 
sent no human soul to judgment. 

Aye, thank God ! " retorted Sandy with 
deep sarcasm, "who, in His inscrutable 



i88 



THE FIGHT AT THE FORD, 



wisdom, sends the greatest fuils the greatest 
fortunes." 

Having had his arm bandaged, Stevens was 
able to get upon his feet and walk, supported 
by Old Bob. The whole party then slowly 
made their way to the cabin, Sandy running 
in advance to get the cooking started again. 

The wounded Stevens is given a bunk to lie 
in, and Scotty a box to sit on, but the Sheriff 
declines to take off the handcuffs. 

What is the charge against him ? " the 
Sheriff is asked. 

Horse-stealing and various other things," 
replied the deputy. " Mr. Anderson can tell 
you more about it than I, who am acting on a 
requisition from the Governor of Illinois." 

" He stole some valuable horses from my 
farm near Aurora, Illinois, several months 
ago," said that gentleman, " and we only 
lately heard that he was in this region. It's 
a sore subject with Buckeye Jim here," con- 
tinued Mr. Anderson, smiling on that big 
man, " for we suspected him for a while." - 



THE FIGHT AT THE FORD. 



189 



That's all right now," Jim responded heart- 
ily. " A man who is fool enough to keep the 
bad company I've been in sometimes, must 
share their color, I suppose, whether he 
deserves it or not. We'll say no more about 
it." 

While this conversation is going on, and 
dinner is preparing, Max and Old Bob are 
talking outside the door. 

Why do you make all this trouble. Bob ? " 
Max asked — " What did you expect you'd 
get out of it ? " 

Reckoned I'd get a good mine. I lowed 
you wasn't staying up here for nothin'." 

** And you thought it was the Aurora I was 
at work in ? " 

To be sure ; where else ? this is no good ! " 

" Isn't it ? Well, we'll see about that. At 
any rate the Aurora is worthless, and I have 
merely been using that as a runway to get to 
the back end of this mine easily, through a 
cross-cut. We're not working the Aurora, 
we're working the Last Chance. You could 



190 THE FIGHT AT THE FORD. 



a' jumped that all day and we wouldn't have 
objected enough to fight, but when you came 
over here we had to." 

And you've won the turn," said Bob 
dejectedly. 

Yes I've won, just as I did once before, 
Bob, — maybe you remember — when a 
couple of burglars tired to crawl into my 
window." 

I don't know nothin' about that," Bob re- 
plied, in a dogged tone. 

Don't you ? Well now, Bob, this makes 
twice you escaped being shot in your rascal- 
ities with me, and if you ever see your way 
out of this present scrape, I'm thinking you'd 
better leave the gulch." 

"Leave; you bet I'll leave. I 'low you 
wouldn't be none too friendly, but that there 
Scotty would murder me the first day he got 
loose, though this bust-up aint no more my 
fault 'n' 'tis his'n." 

Do you think so ?" 
" Think so ; I know it ! And I've got to 



THE FIGHT A T THE FORD. 1 9 1 

get clear away from this country, or I'm a 
dead man !" 

" Maybe I can be of some use to you — I 
mean in saving you from Scotty ; but you must 
tell me who was with you that night you came 
to our cabin." 

It was Stevens," said Bob quietly. 

"Could you prove it, if you were wanted 
to?" 

"Yes, I could." 

** Well, Bob, there's your horse, and a trail 
clear to Denver. Good-by. I hope you'll 
do better hereafter than I've known you to 
yet " 

Max turned his back and went into the cab- 
in, where all the rest were gathering around 
the table. By the time he had filled his plate 
and had found a seat on an inverted powder- 
can, Squint-eyed Old Bob was taking his 
unworthy self out of the cafion, and out of 
my story, at the best pace he knew how. 

He got safely away and never came back ; 
but I am sorry to say he behaved no better, 



192 THE FIGHT AT THE FORD. 

and probably only escaped hanging at last by 
getting crushed in a snowslide. 

Before dinner was ended, a new arrival, and 
a hungry one, appeared in the person of the 
Superintendent of Mr. Anderson's mine near 
the village, a gentleman whom our firm knew 
well, and had a high respect for, both as an 
expert in mining and as an honest man. 



THE CAPITALIST 
EXAMINES THE MINE. 



193 



CHAPTER XVII. 



THE CAPITALIST EXAMINES THE MINE. 

The capitalist frankly told Max and Len, as 
the three sat a little apart from the others, 
that he had great faith in that region, and 
was willing to invest a reasonable amount of 
money in any prospect that gave him suffi- 
cient encouragement. 

He recalled how the attempt had been 
made to dupe him at Old Bob's diggings a 
short distance below, and said that he had 
felt so well satisfied that nothing this creek 
could show was good, that he had resolved 
never to look at any property on its banks 
again. 

At the same time, the behavior of Mr. 
Brehm, during the examination of Bob's pros- 
pect-hole to which he had just alluded, was so 
upright and intelligent, that when he heard 

195 



196 



THE MINE EXAMINED, 



that something different had been discovered 
on Panther Creek, and by whom, he had 
readily consented to come and see it. "Now 
I want to see all you have to show me ; and 
if you have anything good, I've no doubt we 
can make some sort of a bargain. But I don't 
profess to understand these things as well as 
some, and at any rate two heads are better 
than one. ' In a multitude of counsellors 
there is wisdom,' the Wise Man says. There- 
fore I shall ask you to let my superintendent 
go in with us." 

This long speech was not in the least tire- 
some to its hearers, as you may well believe ; 
indeed they took a great liking to Mr. Ander- 
son's frank, bluff, and business-like manner, 
which inspired both respect and confidence. 

At once, therefore, the little lamps were 
lighted, old canvas coats were lent to the visi- 
tors, and the four started into the Last Chance 
tunnel. Max leading the way, and Len bring- 
ing up the rear. 

Sandy remained at the cabin, partly because 



THE MINE EXAMINED, 



197 



he felt himself an outside factor, and partly to 
bear company with Buckeye Jim, Morris, and 
the Deputy Sheriff, who were guarding the 
prisoner, and chatting over Rocky Mountain 
adventures in a way very entertaining to the 
Scotchman. 

Apologies for the unworkman-like condi- 
tion of the mine were unnecessary, since every- 
body knew the history of the undertaking, so 
that nothing was said until the inner cha-mber 
had been reached, at the crosscut, the shape 
and situation of w^hich was first explained to 
the visitors. 

" Is your title unquestionable ? " asked Mr. 
Anderson. 

" Yes ; we had the papers examined by a 
lawyer, and the transfer properly recorded. 
There is no flaw, that we can discover." 

" Where does this water come from ?" 
Mainly from a surface seam. I think it 
could be drained off above ground by a little 
engineering, and thus stopped entirely with- 
out much expense." 



198 THE MINE EXAMINED. 



While this colloquy was in progress, the 
superintendent had taken up a pick and 
chipped off same pieces of rock from the roof 
and sides of the vein, at which he was looking 
very sharply under the flame of his smoky 
lamp. Lennox noticed with a thrill of grati- 
fication how his expert eye, with the instinc- 
tive perception acquired by a long training, 
threw away what they had learned was worth- 
less rock, while the brown stuff, which they 
had proved to be valuable, was selected for 
closer examination. 

•*This is queer-looking stuff," he remarked, 
" I never came across anything just like it. 
What do you take it to be, Mr. Brehm ? 

"That, sir," Max replied, with a bit of 
tremor in his voice, for this was the first an- 
nouncement, that, sir, I suppose to be a 
telluride ofgold, carrying about twenty-eight 
ounces to the ton." 

Great Scott ! That's the best show of 
gold in these parts ! And this black grit must 
be a lead-carbonate ! " 



THE MINE EXAMINED. 199 



So we are told by Denver assayers. They 
pronounce it a soft carbonate, rich in lead and 
iron, and worth — here's the letter — about one 
hundred and twenty dollars to the ton." 

Both Mr. Anderson and the superintendent 
were vastly interested by this information, 
which evidently they accepted as true. The 
latter gentleman read aloud the assayer's state- 
ment of his analysis of the ore, and pointed 
out that it gave very little black-jack, anti- 
mony, etc., which indicated that the ore would 
be easy to smelt, a most important considera- 
tion in estimating its value. 

" Is the whole vein, so far as you have gone, 
like this?" Mr. Anderson asked, as he held 
up his light, and scrutinized the walls and roof 
of the small chamber. 

" No ; there is not much at the very en- 
trance, though, after we learned to recognize 
them, we could find traces of both the carbon- 
ate and telluride clear to the door-way, but we 
saw much more in the interior, and argued 
that the deeper we w^ent the richer the mine 



200 THE MINE EXAMINED. 



would grow, which has proved true up to 
the present time. If it hadn't been for those 
pesky jumpers, we should have gone several 
yards deeper." 

" The vein doesn't seem to be uniformly 
composed of the ore minerals." 

" No, it has been growing very strange in its 
distribution of late, a fact we began to notice 
when we were about two-thirds of the way to 
this point. The lode gradually became filled 
with more or less globular cavities, which 
steadily increased in size. The wall of each of 
these cavities is formed almost wholly of the 
telluride, and the spaces between are pretty 
nearly dead rock. Inside, whenever they are 
small, — there are some little ones in the roof, 
just over your head, which show it well, — they 
are quite filled with nearly solid carbonate ; 
but when they are larger — the last one we 
struck, you can see a remnant of it in the 
breast, was as big as a barrel — they are only 
partly full, and the ore of the interior soft 
and crumbling." 



THE MINE EXAMINED. 



"They are like miniature caves or mon- 
strous geodes," said Mr. Anderson. 

Yes," Len put in — he had been quiet as 
long as he could stand it, and sometimes 
we are warned of what is ahead by the hollow 
sound." 

" Maybe we can find one now, to show 
you," Max suggested; and, taking a pick, he 
moved toward the extremity of the tunnel, 
whither the rest followed him. 

Tapping here and there the breast of rock 
forming the head of the tunnel. Max pres- 
ently detected near the floor a peculiar echo ; 
all listened, and agreed that this sound 
denoted a hollow. 

"I'm not very sure, but I'll try it," he said, 
and slipping aside swung back his sturdy 
arnfs^preparatory to delivering a tremendous 
stroke. 

Down came the pick, crashed through a 
shell of rock, and sank out of sight, except a 
few inches of handle. 

"You've hit it, sure!" exclaimed Mr. 



202 THE MINE EXAMINED. 



Anderson. " Make the hole a little bigger, 
so that we can see in." 

Max did so, knocking off the edges until 
Len could put head and arms in, whereupon 
he reported that he could neither touch nor 
see the further side. 

Drawing back, the hole was again enlarged, 
and Max tossed in a stone, which was heard 
to roll downward a long distance. 

The whole party was now excited in no 
small degree. Taking the superintendent's 
candle in addition to his own, Mr. Ander- 
son crept inside the aperture, cautiously 
descended a short incline, closely followed 
by the others, and soon reached a level bot- 
tom. The adventurers now found themselves 
in a large natural chamber — the interior, in 
fact, of an extensive cavity like those of a 
lesser size which have been described. The 
flickering rays of their lamps and candles let 
them see that overhead was a dome-like ceil- 
ing, seamed with bright streaks of galena, and 
interspersed, in a sort of rude frecso, with 




THE FAIRY CAVE. 

Silver Caves, Page 202. 



THE MINE EXAMINED. 



brown carbonates of lead, greenish chlorides 
of silver and pure white talc. At several 
points in this remarkable chamber small open- 
ings appeared, apparently leading to similar 
chambers beyond and above. 

Choosing one of these apertures opposite 
the breach by which they had entered, they 
enlarged it somewhat, until one by one they 
could squeeze through into a natural tunnel 
which ran for a hundred feet or more on an 
upward slant Following it slowly, they clam- 
bered over boulders of galena, cubic crystals 
of lead, almost always accompanied by silver, 
and left the first of human footprints upon 
mounds of soft gray carbonates. Here, as 
before, the walls and roof showed themselves 
to be solid masses of chloride and carbonate 
ores of silver, through which small deposits 
of the telluride of gold were lying like plums 
in a pudding. 

Returning to the starting-point the ex- 
plorers broke down another doorway, and 
passing through a second natural tunnel a 



THE MINE EXAMINED, 



distance of about forty feet, found indications 
of other chambers and passages beyond. 

"It would seem," cried Mr. Anderson, who 
was now more astonished than were our young 
friends, the fortunate owners ; — it would 
seem as though nature had selected choice 
treasures from her great storehouses, and 
had placed them in these chambers and 
made them beautiful with glittering crystals, 
wrought in the heart of these remote moun- 
tains, on purpose to lure men to still greater 
exertions and richer rewards of labor and 
perseverance." 

" She's had to wait a good while for visi- 
tors to her show," Len remarked. 

** Yes," Mr. Anderson replied, but that is 
no matter. Nature is never in a hurry. She 
can afford to be patient and wait, and let 
things move slowly. With her *a thousand 
years is but a day.' She has had, and will 
have, all the time there is." 

For that matter," Max remarked, catching 
up the strain, what is this little bit of beauty 



THE MINE EXAMINED. 205 

and interest, curious as it is, beside the splen- 
did shows nature arranges for us, with never 
wearying change, from morning till night." 

"And from night till morning," added the 
superintendent, remembering the brilliant 
heavens spread over the clean-aired moun- 
tains. 

Nevertheless, for our purposes," said Mr. 
Anderson, heartily, this does very well in- 
deed, and I compliment you most sincerely 
on your success." 

Then they made their way out and told 
their wonderful tale. The storm had wholly 
cleared from the mountains, and the sun was 
shining brilliantly, robing the magnificent 
landscape, softened by autumn haze, in its 
most glorious garb. 

Buckeye Jim and Morris were hearty in 
their congratulations, and began to build en- 
thusiastic hopes that their own worthless 
Aurora might be pushed into a similar group 
of silver-caves. But that lode lay on the 



2o6 THE MINE EXAMINED. 



wrong side of the porphyry partition, and I 
regret to say that the money they afterwards 
spent in trying the experiment was wholly 
wasted. 

The deputy sheriff from Denver was not 
greatly moved ; said he had heard tall stories 
before; knew how to boom a prospect-hole as 
well as the next man, and altogether made 
himself disagreeable by his air of unbelief 
and his sneering tone. It is wise, no doubt, 
to be cautious, but it is very unfortunate for a 
man, and especially for a young man, to get 
into such a state of mind that no statement 
is to be credited, nothing considered genuine, 
and no man accepted as honest and well- 
meaning. 

As for the prisoners, they were sullen, irri- 
tated by the good fortune of those whom they 
had intended to ruin, and spent their time in 
planning vengeance upon Old Bob for mislead- 
ing them and getting them into a scrape from 
which they could see no escape, — since, in 
fact, there was none. 



THE MINE EXAMINED. 207 

Fools aye see ither folk's faults, and for- 
get their ain," Sandy informed them when 
he had become disgusted with their profane 
growling and threats. 

Of all the company in the cabin, indeed, 
Sandy McKinnon, naturally, was the one most 
deeply interested in this marvelous find, which, 
for him, meant a sudden and unhoped-for 
good fortune out of his brief essay in America. 

" Hech, man," he cried out, it's jest the 
old days of Alladdin an' his lamp — the open- 
sesame business, ye mind. Why, the riches 
o' it must be untold ! '* 



SUCCESS ACHIEVED. 



2og 



CHAPTER XVIIL 



SUCCESS ACHIEVED. 

The next morning, after all the rest had 
started for town (for Stevens was quite able 
to travel, despite his wound), Mr. Anderson 
and his adviser sat down to a business talk 
with our heroes. 

As I understand it," the capitalist began, 

you were anxious to sell an interest in this 
mine, and hoped to persuade me to buy such 
an interest. Is that so ?" 

" It is," came in double response from Max 
and Lennox. 

, " Do you still wish to sell, in view of the 
remarkable disclosures yesterday ?" 

I do not see how otherwise we are to get 
money to carry on the work," said Max, "and 
therefore, though we should be glad to retain 

211 



212 SUCCESS ACHIEVED. 



the whole, I fear we shall be obliged to dis- 
pose of a part." 

" How great a part ? " 

" Last week," replied Max smiling, **I should 
have said half, but now I think a quarter 
would be enough to take off, at any rate, as 
the first slice." 

What is your idea of price ?" 
Well, yesterday my partners and I had 
agreed upon a price, but I fear that wont do 
for to-day, since Len and Sandy here seem to 
think the mine looks a little more promising 
than heretofore." 

You should have seen the grins that passed 
around that circle and answered one another. 

" We would like to hear what you have 
to offer," Len suggested, addressing Mr. 
Anderson. 

''Well," the capitalist answered, " I've been 
thinking about it, and am free to say, that I 
feel disposed to join with you, — buy a share 
of your mine, organize a new firm, and go in 
for its thorough development ; but before I 



SUCCESS ACHIEVED. 213 



can say what I am willing to give, I must 
know more than I do as to the probable cost 
of certain preparations, such as the drainage 
of the mine, the availability of timber for 
inside bracing, etc., the cost of making a 
wagon road up here, the kind of winter houses 
which will be needful, and various other 
things. How would ten thousand dollars 
strike you as payment for half the mine ? " 

Sandy's eyes opened wide. That is a great 
deal of money to a Scotchman. Lennox 
looked as though he was just ready to jump 
at it, but Max calmly raised one foot over his 
knee and said quietly : 

" It doesn't come within sight of the proper 
figure." 

Mr. Anderson laughed, and put on his hat 
for a tramp up the cliff, where, Max had said, 
it might be possible to head off the water. 

A week later all assembled in Mr. Ander- 
son's office in the Camp to hear his pro- 
position. 



214 SUCCESS ACHIEVED. 



" I will give you," he said, " fifty thousand 
dollars in cash for one half of the mine, for if 
I cannot have more than a quarter, it will not 
pay me to touch it ; a new partnership to be 
made between us four for continuing the 
work, and the profits to be divided according 
to the amount which each one contributes 
under the new arrangement toward putting 
the mine in a shape to produce and sell ore." 

This proposition was accepted. And while 
the proper papers were being made out, the 
three members of the old firm of Brehm, Bush- 
wick & Co. went aside to settle their own 
affairs preparatory to dissolving the partner- 
ship. 

" McKinnon," said Len, as spokesman, 
"Max and I have been studying what ought 
to be your share of this money. We think 
that the circumstances have been so peculiar, 
that it would not be doing as well by you 
as we want to, if we stick by the old agree- 
ment, and at the same time we felt that you 
were not quite even with us in the affair. We 



SUCCESS ACHIEVED. 



215 



thought we would split the difference by offer- 
ing you ten thousand dollars and a chance to 
come into the new firm for so much as you 
choose to re-invest. Will that be satis- 
factory?" 

" Parfectly — parfectly, and I thank ye for 
your leeberality, since I wadna hae blamed 
ye had ye stuck to the original terms, though, 
to be sure, they would 'a' fallen far short o' 
what ye are proposin'. But, I ha' had eno' o' 
the mining business. It's no what I w^as cut 
out for, I'm thinkin', and wi' all respect to you, 
and carryin' away a life-long gladness, that I 
ever met ye, I will take my belongings back 
to auld Scotland and aye stay there." 

And so he did. 

The new firm, Mr. Anderson, Max and Len- 
nox, put the Silver Caves, as they called the 
new mine, into fine shape ; constructed wagon- 
roads, built good houses in place of the old 
cabin, and in a few years were carrying on one 
of the most extensive mines in that part of 
the mountains. It came to be only one in a 



2i6 SUCCESS ACHIEVED, 



group of good mines which were discovered 
on both sides of the creek, when men learned 
what kind of ore to look for in that district. 
But none of them have ever excelled this in 
value, nor is any company more likely to reach 
a higher and higher prosperity, than this first 
mine and its managers, in which we have been 
interested ; a success due not to luck, but to 
keen eyes, willing hands, and stout hearts. 



THE END.